You’ve seen it–the driver in the car next you is at the wheel with their eyes down, phone in hand, and very often, it’s a young adult.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic fatalities and the CDC numbers are scary. They estimate nine people are killed and thousands more injured daily across the country as a result of distracted driving.
You can be distracted by anything that takes your eyes off the road, but cell phone distractions lead the list. According to the CDC, when you text while driving, you are pulling your eyes from the road, your attention from driving and your hands off the wheel–a deadly combination. In the five seconds you look away to type a text, you travel the length of a football field if you’re going 55 MPH. A lot can happen in five seconds.
Teenagers among the worst
Over the past decade, young adults have been the most at-risk group for distracted driving. According to the CDC, drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distracted driving crashes in the United States. Most know it’s wrong–and illegal–and yet the behavior continues.
Despite tougher laws and publicity campaigns, new research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has found that this trend continues–teenagers are among the worst offenders. A study of 101,000 teenagers found that at least 40% of those had texted or sent an email while driving in the last 30 days. And the older they get, the more likely it was to occur as teenagers 18 or older were texting more often than 15-year-olds. The survey asked only about texting and emailing while driving, not using other phone applications, so the researchers fear that there may even be more phone use behind the wheel than the numbers show.
Discourage the behavior
If you’re the parent of a teenager or young adult, there are measures you can take to discourage this risky driving behavior:
- Educate your teens about the risks and dangers of phone use while behind the wheel.
- Offer monetary incentives for safe driving choices.
- Set firm rules about texting and driving with firm consequences.
- Install apps that discourage or prevent phone use while driving.
- Lead by example and practice safe driving behavior.
Distracted driving is a major public safety issue–one that’s entirely preventable with safer choices. Encourage your teenagers to put the phone down to keep themselves and others safe on the roadways.