One of the scariest things about being a parent is that the more independent our children become, the less control we have. As parents, we just want to protect our kids from the world around them. Once they hit their teens, real world choices have real life impacts. And as that 16th birthday draws nearer and nearer, it suddenly becomes a case of your child inside a metal box versus the world.
Our world is filled with distractions. So in this age of instant gratification, text messaging, and smartphones, what can we do as parents to help our children stay focused on the road and stay safe?
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens; and most of these deaths are preventable. Here are some helpful tips to assist your teenage driver as they learn to navigate the roads.
While distracted driving poses a risk to drivers of all ages, it is more prevalent among teenagers. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, 7% of all drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 involved in fatal accidents were distracted at the time of their accident–more than any other age group.
While their inexperience behind the wheel is relevant, smartphone usage likely plays a more prominent role. The Children’s Hospital also reports that 39% of all high schoolers–well over one in three–admit to texting or emailing while driving in the last month.
Teenagers who text while driving are also statistically more likely to engage in other dangerous behaviors behind the wheel, compounding the risk. For example, those who admit to texting and driving were also found to speed, run red lights and stop signs, and unsafely pass other vehicles. This rate is higher than teenage drivers who do not text while driving. These behaviors create a potentially-deadly set of circumstances.
Furthermore, other research has found that most studies dramatically understate the risk of distracted driving–particularly among teenage drivers. AAA performed a video analysis study of 1,700 accidents involving teenage drivers in 2015. The researchers utilized video captured by in-vehicle cameras to analyze the six seconds leading up to a crash. The study found that distraction was a factor in 58% of the crashes studied–particularly in road departure crashes (89%) and rear-end collisions (76%).
The AAA study found that, on average, teen drivers distracted by their cellphones took their eyes off the road for 4.1 of the 6 seconds leading up to the impact. In addition, in over half of the rear-end accidents analyzed, the driver failed to react at all–meaning they did not apply their brakes or attempt to avoid the collision–before the impact.
Their data also reports that the most common causes of distraction-related accidents among teen drivers include thefollowing:
- Interacting with passengers – 15% of accidents
- Cell phone utilization – 12%
- Looking at something else in the vehicle – 10%
- Looking at something outside the vehicle – 9%
- Singing or dancing to music – 8%
- Grooming or applying makeup – 6%
- Reaching for an object within the vehicle – 6%
These statistics provide additional evidence that the role of distraction in teen driving accidents is probably more significant than previously surmised.
7 Tips to Help Your Teen Avoid Distractions While Driving:
- Model Good Behavior. The most responsible thing parents can do when driving or teaching their teens to drive, is to model appropriate behavior. We need to demonstrate what safe, focused driving looks like.
- Try a Tech Solution. There are many technologies and apps that help increase awareness on the road & promote safer driving. For example, Hum by Verizon Wireless lets you set speed and boundary alerts.
- Avoid Anything that Prevents you from Keeping Your Eyes on the Road. This includes channel surfing, texting, eating and drinking. Remind your teen to not just stay focused on their driving, but also on the other drivers around them. Your teen is responsible for not just themselves, but for their passengers and the lives of the other people they are sharing the road with.
- Know Where you are Going Before you Leave the House. If using a navigation system or smartphone, it is imperative to pre-program the destination so that the voice directions are started before driving. This way your teen can remain hands-free and stay focused on the road.
- Give Yourself Extra Time to get There. Check traffic beforehand to know the best routes to take and to get a more accurate idea of timing so your teen can avoid the stress associated with rushing or being late.
- Always Pull-Over if Something Requires your Attention. Instead of using the phone while driving, or having to adjust fallen items, secure pets or passengers, if your teen’s attention cannot be only on the road, it is necessary to pull-over. Then they can take care of pressing business and proceed when they are ready and focused again.
- Pledge to Stop Distracted Driving. By modeling proper driving tactics and constantly educating the public about safe driving, we are pledging to do our part to make the roads a safer place. Encourage all drivers you know to take the pledge to avoid driving distracted and to #ArriveAliveTX.
For parents and their teen drivers there are many online resources available with tips on how to promote safe driving, including Verizon’s Technology & Teen Driving resource, National Safety Council, Million Mile Secrets’ Roadside Assistance Tips, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
We at Patterson Law Group take distracted driving seriously because we see its devastating impacts on a daily basis. Please join us in making the roads a safer place.
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