Distracted driving can be a dangerous habit for not only teens, but all drivers on the road. As young new drivers navigate the early stages of learning to drive, it is important for them to understand the serious risks which come along with any type of distracted driving. Instilling safe driving practices early on can help teens prevent the chances of dangerous distracted driving accidents.
What Are The Dangers of Distracted Driving?
Data shows that around 3,000 deaths occur every year in car accidents caused by a distracted driver. In 2019, 9% of fatal car crashes and 15% of injury crashes were reported as distracted driving related.
About 1 in 5 of the people who died in an accident involving a distracted driver were not in a vehicle, and were either a pedestrian or bicyclist. This shows how distracted driving creates not only a risk to the driver and passengers in the vehicle, but also endangers other innocent people on the road.
Common Types of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving includes doing any other activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. The three main types of distractions are broken down into:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind or attention off the act of driving
The following are the most common ways drivers can be distracted while on the road.
Texting or Using a Cell Phone
Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous types of distracted driving as it is categorized as a visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.
When you text while driving, you are taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving safely. This can lead to several dangers, including an increased risk of car accidents, delayed reaction times, decreased awareness of surroundings, and an increased likelihood of injury in a collision.
Eating or Drinking
Eating while driving is a common habit which is a dangerous form of distracted driving. When you are multitasking driving and eating, your attention is divided between your food and the road. Because of this, you may not be able to respond quickly to changes in traffic or road conditions. Since eating requires the use of your hands and taking your eyes off the road, it is a distraction that can cause an increased risk of accidents.
Adjusting Music or Other Controls
Adjusting music or other control while driving is another common distraction which requires you to take your eyes off the road. Even a few seconds of distraction can increase the risk of accidents significantly. Changing music on your phone or audio system can take your attention off the road and can result in missing changes in traffic or road signs.
Talking to Other Passengers
Having other passengers in the car can be a dangerous distraction, especially for teens who are new drivers and are less experienced. Talking to other passengers can significantly reduce your focus on driving and attention to vehicles surrounding you.
Holding a conversation while driving can increase your mental workload, which can impair your ability to process information and decrease your reaction time to respond to changes in traffic or road conditions. Engaging in conversations with passengers in the car can be a dangerous distraction which puts you and the passengers at risk for serious injury in the event of a collision.
Distracted Driving and Teens
Teens and young drivers lack experience on the road and do not have the same level of driving responsibility as adults. As a new teen driver, many have not experienced the outcome of a car crash after a driving mistake or understand what to do after a car accident. Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, generally because of their lack of maturity, experience, and skills. Many young drivers tend to speed, make mistakes, and are prone to getting distracted easily.
According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, among drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal car accidents, 9% were distracted driving at the time of the crash. A study on risk behaviors among high school students has also found that texting while driving is more common among older teens between ages 17 and 19.
Safe Driving Tips To Avoid Distracted Driving
- Avoid using your phone while driving. This may go without saying, but given the reality of how often teens use cell phones while driving, it is important to emphasize the extremely dangerous risk caused by this type of distracted driving. Setting your phone on “do not disturb” mode or using other apps to pause notifications while driving is a helpful way to avoid the habit of picking up your cell phone while on the road.
- Limit the number of passengers in your car. Having too many passengers in the car can increase distractions while driving. Because of this, it is best to limit the number of passengers in the car, especially as a newer driver.
- Plan your route before getting on the road. Knowing where you are going ahead of time can help avoid getting lost and keep your focus on the route in front of you. This can also prevent needing to reach for a cell phone to search for directions on a map while you are already driving.
- Keep the music or audio levels at moderate to low volume and set up before driving. Playing music too loud can be a dangerous distraction that can reduce your attention on the road and your surroundings. Having a playlist or radio already set up before you start driving is the safest practice to avoid taking your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel to change the audio.