Distracted Driving: Report Says Teens’ Deadliest Days in Summer
When you are parenting a teen, you can find plenty to worry about. Teenagers face a wide array of risks, but did you realize that your car was the biggest one? Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death in teens.
Interestingly, according to a news release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and AAA, 7 of the 10 deadliest days for teen drivers occur during the summer, and distracted driving is often the culprit.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10 percent of crashes involving injuries in 2011 were linked to driver distraction. Drivers are more than three times more likely to get in a car accident while reaching for something in their car and 23 times more likely to crash while texting.
Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving. Distractions include talking on the phone or to other passengers, eating, putting on makeup, brushing your hair, reading (including maps), and adjusting a navigation system or music. But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction. Texting pulls your attention and hands away for longer amounts of time than other distractions.
Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct a survey in public and private schools across the country. On the 2011 survey, 8,505 high school students, ages 16 and older, were asked about potentially dangerous driving behaviors they had engaged in over the past month. Of the respondents, just under 45 percent had texted while driving at least once during that span. One in four students texted while driving on a daily basis, the study showed. The older the students, the more likely they were to text and drive. Male high school students texted while driving more often than female students.
You may be thinking that you can’t control your teen when you are not in the car. This is very true, but there is a lot you can do to prevent distracted driving. Parents should:
Talk with your teen. You can send a strong message by simply taking the time to tell your teen about the dangers of driving distractions. Inform them of some of the statistics mentioned above, but be sure to make it real. Getting through to teens who often feel invincible can be challenging, so give them the harsh reality. The most effective way to reach teens is to offer them an example of someone who died or was seriously injured as a result of driving distracted. If you don’t know of anyone in your community, try to find an article online that tells someone’s story.
Lay down the law. Let your teen know that 41 states ban text messaging while driving and an additional 6 prohibit texting by new drivers in particular. If teens know that they could face up to 90 days in jail just for driving while texting, or they could spend 15 years in prison for causing a fatality, they might reconsider sending that note to their friends.
Establish rules and consequences. Be very clear about your expectations for your teen while they drive. Do not assume that they know that they shouldn’t eat, play with the radio, or talk on the phone while driving. According to one survey, cellphone use while driving is 30 percent lower among teens whose parents set clear rules. In fact, it may be helpful to create a teen driving contract for your child to sign. This will clearly lay out the rules for your teen on the road so that there will be no confusion. Be sure to tell them the rules are promises they have made to keep themselves and others safe while they’re on the road. The contract should explain the consequences for breaking the rules. The most important thing to a teen is their cell phone and driver’s license. Do not be afraid to take them away if they get a ticket or you find out they were driving distracted.
Be a positive role model. According to a new survey released in April, 2013 from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, nearly two-thirds of adults use a cell phone when they’re driving with children in the car, and about one-third text. Research proves that children watch what their parents do and copy it. If they see you driving distracted, they will assume it is no big deal. Instead, make a big deal about not having access to your phone while driving, and they will be more likely to do the same when they are behind the wheel.