Teens and Distracted Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each day in the U.S. at least nine people lose their lives, and another 1,153 sustain injury in distracted driving accidents. In 2012 alone, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,328 people and injured 421,000 more.

As the parent of a child who is currently at or approaching driving age, one of the most important things you can do is talk to your teen about distracted driving. Vehicle-related accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S., according to the federal government’s website on distracted driving (www.distraction.gov). Teenagers are also far more likely to text and drive, talk on a cell phone while driving or engage in other types of distracting activities behind the wheel. Approximately 16 percent of all distracted driving accidents involve teenage drivers.

Most Common Distractions Among Teenage Drivers

Although distracted driving laws vary from state to state, one thing is certain, anything that causes a driver to take his or her hands off the wheel, attention off the road or mind off the task of driving should be considered as a distraction. Some of the most common distractions among teenage drivers include:

  • Use of electronic devices (texting, talking on a cell phone, etc.)
  • Other teenage passengers
  • Adjusting controls (changing radio stations, switching CDs or using in-vehicle navigation)
  • Personal grooming
  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for an object

Use of an electronic device is predominately the most common distraction among teenage drivers, with female drivers being two times as likely to engage in this type of distracted driving behavior than are male drivers.

Minimizing Your Teen’s Chances of Being Involved in a Distracted Driving Accident

No parent wants their child to be involved in a car accident, regardless of whether he or she sustains serious injury. Fortunately, parents can take actions to help minimize their teen’s chances of being involved in a distracted driving accident.

According to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation, distracted driving behavior among teenage drivers varies significantly depending on the passengers he or she has in the vehicle. When at least one parent or another adult is in the vehicle, teen drivers are far less likely to use an electronic device. When a teenage sibling or peer is in the vehicle, the likelihood of electronic device use drops by 60 percent. Teen drivers who are allowed to drive with multiple teenage peers are twice as likely to engage in loud, distracting conversations and horseplay. Limiting who your newly licensed teen driver is allowed to transport can help minimize the risk of accident.

Another action parents can take is to download an app to their teen’s phone that can help block cell phone usage and prevent texting while driving. Consumer Reports features three such apps on their website. Encourage your teenager to eat either before getting behind the wheel or stop somewhere along the way, but do not eat or drink while driving. Make sure that if your teen is driving to a location he or she is unfamiliar with, the destination is pre-programmed into the in-vehicle navigation system.

Last, but not least, enroll your child in a driving school geared for teenage drivers. Many driving schools have tailored programs that will not only teach your teen how to become a safer, more responsible driver, but will teach defensive driving techniques and provide instruction on the dangers today’s teen drivers face.

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