Getting a driver’s license at 16 is a big occasion that comes with newfound autonomy, self-reliance, and opportunities. However, a driver’s license is a privilege not to be taken lightly. On top of the many hazards parents faced years ago as new drivers, today’s teens must also resist the tantalizing temptation of distracted driving.
Different Kinds of Distracted Driving
This dangerous practice takes three different forms: visual distraction (your eyes off the road), manual distraction (your hands off the wheel), or cognitive distraction (your mind off driving). In our world of constant connectedness, the norm has become checking text messages and social media on a nearly continuous basis. However, no text is worth a life. In order to prevent distracted driving, it’s important to have active conversations, set a good example, and encourage accountability.
You Can’t Ignore the Numbers
It’s easy to think an accident will never happen to you, but the statistics say otherwise. According to the CDC, 8 people are killed and 1,161 people are injured due to distracted driving every single day. Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly twenty percent of vehicle accidents involve distracted driving.
Distracted driving disproportionately impacts young drivers, with drivers under 20 making up the largest cohort of fatal distracted driving accidents. For drivers aged 15-19 involved in fatal crashes, ten percent were distracted at the time of the accident. Each year, the Youth Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) asks high school students to report risky behavior. The survey found that two in five high school drivers reported texting or emailing while driving. It also found a link between distracted driving and other risky behavior like alcohol and driving, with drivers who text being twice as likely to ride with a drunk driver. Additionally, a 2015 AAA study which analyzed 1,700 in-car videos of teen drivers found that the driver was distracted 58% of the time in moderate to severe accidents.
It Only Takes a Moment
While it may seem safe to quickly glance at a text from a friend or a boyfriend or girlfriend, the fact is that even a momentary distraction can have a devastating impact. When traveling at 60 miles per hour, you’re traveling 88 feet per second. The average texting driver takes their eyes off the road for five seconds, but let’s say you take your eyes off the road for just three seconds. In that brief period of time, you’ve travelled 264 feet (88 yards) – nearly the length of a football field. What’s more, the average reaction time when texting is 1.5 seconds. Imagine looking at your phone for three seconds and then looking up to see something or someone in the road. After three seconds of distracted driving and 1.5 seconds of reaction time, you will have travelled 131 yards. Needless to say, cars travel much farther in a just a few seconds than you may have originally thought.
Ways to Avoid Distracted Driving
So what can you do to help prevent distracted driving?
Remove the distraction.
Consider placing your phone in a backpack, in the backseat, or someplace where you cannot reach it. If you like having it within reach, place the phone in airplane mode.
Leave a few minutes early.
It’s also important to manage your time efficiently. By allowing a little extra time for driving, you can avoid the temptation to speed, glance at a map, or eat breakfast in the car.
Use an App.
Another option is to make the technology work for you in the prevention of distracted driving. DMV.org offers a comparison of four excellent distracted driving apps including LifeSaver, AT&T DriveMode, TrueMotion, and Drive Beehive.
Plan your route & playlist in advance.
If using a phone for directions or music, review maps ahead of time or set a playlist before getting behind the wheel. Lastly, teens need to be accountable to friends. Don’t distract the driver, and when your driver is distracted, tell them firmly to stop.
If you or your teen have additional questions about distracted driving, check out this Q&A resource. As a parent, set a good example by practicing what you preach when it comes to distracted driving. If you are serious about stopping distracted driving, take the pledge here. You can also stay up to date with strategies that combat distracted driving via this handy Facebook Page.
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ABOUT THE EXPERT: Morris Lilienthal is a shareholder with the Huntsville law firm of Martinson & Beason, P.C., and has been practicing law for over fourteen years. By representing injury victims and their families Morris is eager to help others who are going through an extremely rough and scary time in their life by helping them put the pieces back together. Morris and his wife Shannon have one son, Wyatt. Shannon is a teacher at Madison Elementary School. An avid sports fan, Morris enjoys playing and watching sports when not practicing law.