For most people, it’s likely not surprising to learn that the number one cause of accidents on US roads today is distracted driving. This has been the case for several years, having surpassed drunk driving as the top killer.
Around 2008, states began enacting laws to prevent drivers from using a cellphone while operating a vehicle. Today, most states have robust anti-distracted driving laws on the books, including laws against talking on the phone without a hands-free device.
Sadly, younger drivers are a high-risk demographic for engaging in distracted driving due to their inexperience, with 7% of distracted driving fatalities in 2017 attributed to people ages 15-19. That year, 229 teen drivers were killed in distraction-related accidents, and 297 people were killed by distracted teen drivers.
Talk early and talk often
Parents can work in conjunction with educators to help prevent teens from driving distracted. It’s important to begin having conversations before they ever get behind the wheel. Here are a few tips for educating your teen about the dangers of distracted driving:
- Tell them it’s not just about texting. Distracted driving is most often thought of as texting or using a cellphone while operating a vehicle, but a number of activities provide enough distraction to cause a crash. Eating, applying makeup and changing the radio station are just two other potential causes.
- Share distracted driving accident statistics. The more your teen is aware of the risks, the more likely they are to be aware of their own behaviors and modify accordingly.
- Set rules and consequences. Teens should have strict boundaries with driving beyond the graduated licensing model most states implement. There should be clear rules and concrete consequences for breaking those rules, such as loss of driving or phone privileges.
- Limit the number of passengers allowed. One of the biggest causes of distraction is driving with others in the car. Teens are less likely to pay full attention to the road if they have peer passengers. States usually regulate this, but set your own limits or ban passengers if you feel the need.
Perhaps the most important measure to take is modeling good behavior yourself. Teens who see you practicing what you preach are more likely to follow. Inconsistencies in your own driving behaviors will encourage them to break the standards you set.
Hopefully, with better education initiatives both at home and in schools, the numbers of fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers will decrease.