We’ve all seen it, we pull up to a stoplight and the motorist in the next car is on their phone, eyes down, distracted. It’s widely known to be dangerous and yet, it still occurs. In the United States, distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic fatalities and injuries each year. Distractions while driving can be anything that takes your attention from the roadway including cell phone use, eating or adjusting the radio.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of electronic devices is the leading cause of distracted driving crashes. The CDC states that texting while driving is especially alarming as it combines the three dangerous factors of distraction: it takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving. Sending or reading a text for a full five seconds is equivalent to covering the span of a football field if you’re traveling at 55 MPH.
Teenagers most at-risk
Teenagers and young adults are the most at-risk age group for this type of dangerous behavior – people aged 16-24 account for the highest number of distracted driving crashes across the United States. New laws and national ad campaigns have targeted teens and young adults for years in hopes of reducing the occurrence of texting while driving. However, new research published in the American Academy of Family Physicians finds that teenagers are still the biggest offenders.
The study found that one in three teens admitted to texting while driving or sending an email from behind the wheel at least once in the last 30 days. It also found that the frequency of texting while driving increased with age and that those 18 or older were more likely to text more often. The study authors suggest that phone use may also be more widespread as the survey asked only about texting or sending emails, not sending pictures or using social media while driving. Many states have laws that make texting while driving illegal, and most teens know it’s wrong, but the behavior continues.
Parents can discourage the behavior
If you’re the parent of a teenager, there are ways to discourage teens and young adults from using their phones while driving:
- Lead by example and model safe driving by keeping your eyes and focus on the road.
- Provide monetary incentives for safe driving choices.
- Install apps that discourage or prevent phone use while driving.
- Set rules about texting and driving for your family with firm consequences.
- Educate kids about the risks and dangers of distracted driving.
Distracted driving is a big problem that’s entirely preventable. Talking with your teen about the dangers of texting while driving can help to change their behaviors for safer outcomes.