April is distracted drivers awareness month. It has become increasingly evident over the last several years that teens and young adult drivers are more distracted than ever. With the abundance and availability of smartphone programs, the number of motor vehicle accidents with a teen driver being labeled as “distracted” has increased tenfold since 2000. The ease of use of this new technology and its’ social influence on youth has caused many to abandon important safety precautions so they can stay in touch with their friends, change a song, eat, or even apply makeup while driving. It only takes five seconds, (about the time it takes on average to read or send a quick text), while moving at 55 miles per hour, to drive the length of a football field.
Distracted driving is defined as any moment while driving where you are preoccupied with another task instead of providing full attention to the road. There are three main types of distraction while driving: manual, visual, and cognitive, all of which have their respective reasons for being dangerous.
- manual distraction is when the driver takes their hands physically off of the steering wheel to use them for something else, like picking up an object that fell in the car.
- visual distraction is when the driver takes their eyes off of the road to look at scenery or another passenger.
- cognitive distraction takes the driver’s mind, and therefore their full attention, off of the road. Talking on the phone, talking to passengers, or adjusting controls in the vehicle are all examples of a cognitive distraction.
Out of all of these distractions, using a phone and driving is considered to be the most lethal to teen drivers aged 15-19, due to it being a combination of all three types of distractions. Teens are less experienced drivers, and are more likely to be distracted by electronic devices and the world around them. Even though a large majority of teens understand that texting, talking on a phone, or using social media is extremely dangerous, they still engage in these life-threatening acts. According to the CDC, “in 2019, 39% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days, texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.”
It is imperative to the safety of our youth that we continue to create preventative measures for not only teens, but for all drivers, to follow. Currently, there are state laws that have been administered to prevent the use of cellphones while driving, but the results of these laws have been mixed. Prohibiting new drivers from having passengers in the car has shown to decrease fatal accidents by 21%, one of the most effective laws to date. Unfortunately, only 16 states and Washington, D.C. have this law in place. A new and more effective course of action not only for teen drivers, but for all drivers, is the new “do not disturb” mode that Apple has recently released. This update allows the user to activate a mode, that when the car is in motion, they will not receive any notifications, thereby removing the cell phone distraction.
There have been far too many young lives lost from distracted driving incidents that are completely preventable. As a parent, it is important to remember that your phone call or text to your teen driver can also contribute to distracted driving practices. Statistics show that a young driver may actually feel more compelled to answer the phone if they see it is their parent calling.
Everyone needs to do their part when it comes to our youth being safe on the road. It not only can seriously affect our younger, less experienced drivers, but also everyone on the road, including pedestrians.
Cell phones. Teen Driver Source. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.teendriversource.org/teen-crash-risks-prevention/distracted-driving/cell-phones.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 2). Distracted driving. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/Distracted_Driving/index.html.
Why distracted driving is dangerous. DecidetoDrive. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.decidetodrive.org/distracted-driving-dangerous/.