The “Yeah I know it’s risky to text or talk and drive and that people get hurt or killed, but it won’t happen to me,” thinking didn’t work for over 3,000 people who lost their lives, and thousands more who were injured due to distracted driving in 2010 alone.
More often than not, teens are part of these tragedies. Teenagers are four times more likely to crash than adult drivers. In fact, crashes remain the leading cause of death for your age group. Over the last 20 years, alcohol related fatal accidents have dropped by about 60%, but other fatal crashes for teens have gone up by about 35%. Basically, we’ve just traded drunk driving for distracted driving” according to David Strayer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Utah who studies cell phone use and crashes.
The topic of distracted driving has many opportunities for additional learning. Consider one of the following, or find additional areas on your own.
Many schools offer drivers education training, if your school is among them look at the materials being used. Do they include a major section on the risks of using technologies like texting and talking when driving? Do they have take-home materials to help parents understand the issues of distracted driving? Look at pulling together material to help update the driver’s education program if needed.
Look at your own cell phone use when driving; it’s not just teens who are texting behind the wheel. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a report in Nov. of 2009 that “the frequency of teens reporting parent cell phone use behind the wheel in our focus groups was striking, and suggested, in many cases, that texting while driving is a family affair.”
Research the laws and pending legislation about distracted driving. Learn what laws and recommendations are in place for your state or country.
A ban on the use of all mobile devices by drivers except in emergencies was recommended in Dec. 2011, by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Their decision is based on investigations into distraction-related accidents for the past decade where electronic distraction has played an increasing role, combined with escalating concerns about the increasing capabilities of mobile devices that will give rise to even more distractions. “Every year, new devices are being released. People are tempted to update their Facebook page, they are tempted to tweet, as if sitting at a desk. But they are driving a car” said Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of NTSB, who added It’s going to be very unpopular with some people. “We’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to do the right thing. This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time.”
This month is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and this lesson focuses on the risks of using cell phones or other electronic devices when driving - which is number one cause of distracted driving among teens. In 2010 alone, over 3,000 people lost their lives, and thousands more who were injured due to distracted driving, and more often than not teens were a part of those tragedies.
There are two key factors in the rising distracted driving death toll: 1) new technologies enabling talking, texting, emailing, etc. in vehicles, and 2) a failure to effectively teach youth about the risks of using cell phones when driving.
How to talk to, and teach, youth about the risks of cell phones when driving:
Start by asking yourself if you use your phone while driving. If you do, you’re sending a very powerful message that in spite of the significant increase in risk, you believe this is acceptable behavior.
Have the ‘texting, talking and driving don’t mix’ talk. Frequently. Teens may not want to listen, but they do hear what you’re saying and the rules you set.
Look at what materials are presented in your teen’s driver’s education classes. Are the materials updated to focus on the issues of distracted driving? If not, consider a different course or add this material in your conversations and practice drives.
Help your teen decide how he or she will avoid using technology when driving – maybe turning the device to silent is enough to keep them from interacting, for others, putting the phone in the trunk when driving may be the solution.
Don’t allow your teen to ride in any car if the driver is using their phone. They can either volunteer to call/text for the driver, or ask the driver to pull over to use their phone.
Don’t call or text your teen when you know they’re driving. This puts them in a dilemma – they either have to ignore your call/text or be distracted while driving.
Watch one of the videos found in the additional resources section, and take the Distractology 101 learning challenge, then discuss what points resonated with your teen.
As a family, take the pledge to drive cell free. It is sponsored by the National Transportation Safety Board.
No text or call is more important than your teen’s life.