Teen drivers and distracted driving don’t mix well
Teen drivers and distracted mix as well as ketchup and pancakes or orange juice and toothpaste. In fact, distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road, but especially for inexperienced teen drivers who think they are invincible. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a new campaign dubbed “U Drive. U Text. You Pay” last week to help shine the spotlight on the dangers of distracted driving.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Congress passed a resolution in 2010 to designate every April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In 2021, 3,522 people were killed by distracted driving. The NHTSA recently launched its new campaign to help save lives. It is also asking driving schools, educators, and law enforcement agencies to help spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving.
For teens, the annual awareness month of April comes at a handy time – when proms and graduations can be deadly for new and inexperienced drivers.
What is distracted driving?
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in the vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment, or navigation system – anything that takes attention away from the task of safe driving.
Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.
Three types of distracted driving
Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending or reading a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. The CDC states that there are three main types of distracted driving.
Visual – Taking your eyes off the road
Manual – Both hands are not on the steering wheel
Cognitive – Taking your mind off driving
Teen drivers and distracted driving
Teen drivers are more at risk of crashing due to distracted driving. Should concerned parents worry about the dangers of distracted driving? The answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” Here’s why…
Teen driver distraction is responsible for six out of ten moderate-to-severe crashes.
According to a AAA study, the most common forms of distraction leading to a teen driver crash include:
Interacting with one or more passengers
Using a cellphone while driving
Looking at something in the vehicle
Glancing at something outside the vehicle
Singing/dancing to music
Reaching for an object
Distracted driving is preventable!
The good news is that teen drivers, passengers, and parents can all participate to help reduce the dangers of distracted driving. Below are some helpful tips from the CDC.
Drivers can reduce driver distractions by…
- Do not multitask while driving. Whether it’s adjusting your mirrors, selecting music, eating, making a phone call, or reading a text or email―do it before or after your trip, not during.
- You can use apps to help you avoid cell phone use while driving. Consider trying an app to reduce distractions while driving.
Passengers can reduce driver distractions by…
- Speak up if you are a passenger in a car with a distracted driver. Ask the driver to focus on driving.
- Reduce distractions for the driver by assisting with navigation or other tasks.
Parents can reduce driver distractions by…
- Talk to your teen or young adult about the rules and responsibilities involved in driving.
- Share stories and statistics related to teen/young adult drivers and distracted driving.
- Remind them that driving is a skill that requires the driver’s full attention.
- Emphasize that texts and phone calls can wait until arriving at a destination.
- Familiarize yourself with Georgia’s Joshua’s Law requirements.
- Set consequences for distracted driving. Fill out AAA’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement together to begin a safe driving discussion and set your family’s rules of the road. Your rules of the road can be stricter than your state’s law.
- Set a good example. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel while driving.
More safety tips from Drive Smart Georgia
To keep your own teen driver safe on the road, here are some safety tips from the experts at Drive Smart Georgia.
- Practice safe driving. Don’t forget to buckle up. Observe the speed limit, be well rested and alert, and don’t follow cars too closely.
- Follow the speed limit. Speed kills and is a major reason for avoidable car crashes.
- Know the passenger limits. During the first six months, NO passengers are allowed. Only one is allowed during the second six months.
- Avoid all distractions. Turn the cell phone off while driving. When you arrive at your destination, turn it on to call or text mom or dad.
- Do not drink and drive. If you do, call mom and dad for a ride home. Plan for a lecture, but in the end, your parents will be extremely happy that you asked for help.
- Come to a complete stop at stop signs. Too many new drivers make “Hollywood” or rolling stops.
- Stop at yellow lights when possible. Many inexperienced drivers think yellow means speed up to make the light.
- Be a courteous and considerate driver. Aggressive drivers are involved in more accidents than courteous ones. Teach your new driver how to be considerate on the road.
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