By P. Humbargar
Each day in the United States, at least 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in automobile crashes that involve a distracted driver. In 2011, alone, this amounted to 3,331 dead and 387,000 injured.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving, thus endangering the driver, passengers and bystanders. It includes: texting, cell phone/smart phone use, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using navigation systems, watching videos, adjusting audio players, and any other activity in which the driver’s full attention is not focused on the road.
Don’t Text and Drive.
Because texting requires the visual, manual, and cognitive attention of the driver, it is by far the most dangerous distraction. A driver who texts and drives is 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash. Studies show that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of just 4.6 seconds, but at 55 mph, this is the equivalent of driving blind for the length of an entire football field! Merely talking on a cell phone while driving is not without its dangers, either. Studies show that driving while on the phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%; and other studies show that headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.
Tragically, automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, and 11% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Additionally, 40% of all teens say that they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
These are truly alarming statistics, especially for parents who have a teen who is now, or will soon be, driving.
Although many states have enacted laws dealing with distracted driving, such as banning texting while driving, not all states have; and the laws are not uniform and not always enforced. Since these are all relatively new laws, their effectiveness in reducing crashes involving distracted driving is as yet unknown.
How Can You Keep Them Safe? 5 Important Tips:
1. Model safe driving.
As parents, or any other adult with a young driver in our life, the most important thing we can do to help keep teens safe behind the wheel is to set a good example. We are, after all, probably the number one influence on what kind of drivers our children become. If we don’t want them on the phone while driving, we certainly shouldn’t do so, either.
2. Establish rules for driving.
It is vital that we teach children from an early age about what a serious responsibility driving is, and how to be safe. Set ground rules, which include staying off the phone while driving—their lives and those of others could depend on it.
3. Keep them informed of state laws for driving.
They should also be made aware of their particular state’s laws involving cell phone use while driving and the consequences of violations, which could include a delayed or suspended license.
4. Encourage them to speak out.
Let teens know that it is okay to speak out when they are in a situation where they believe the driver is distracted, and support them in their efforts to encourage others to drive phone-free.
5. Make a family pledge.
A family pledge is an excellent idea. Get everyone involved and sign a pledge committing to distraction-free driving. A downloadable pledge form is available from the official US Government Website for Distracted Driving.
So, let’s put those cell phones away when we get in the car today—and show our kids that no phone call or text message is so important that it can’t wait a few minutes until we are safely off the road!