Teenage driving is a serious problem, especially now that the use of cell phone technology has become an everyday event when driving. The arrival of fully autonomous cars is obviously not arriving on auto dealership showroom floors fast enough to eliminate this serious problem.
In a recent study by AAA, researchers found out that distraction was a leading factor in nearly 6 out of every 10 accidents involving teenagers. The indisputable evidence captured by video cameras within the vehicle driven by a teenager prove why these young drivers maintain the highest crash rate with injuries and fatalities of any age group in America. The study noted that major distractions of teen motorists while driving include talking on smart phones, grooming and changing stations on the radio. However, the leading distraction was talking to others riding inside the vehicle.
In 2013, nearly 1 million young motorists ages 16 through 19 were involved in accidents reported to the police. These collisions resulted in more than 380,000 injuries and nearly 2900 deaths. That same year, nearly 250 teenagers in the United States ages 15 to 19 years old lost their lives in distracted-related crashes, which totaled more than eight percent of all associated deaths on the roadway that year.
By percentages, the most common distractions that led to a crash that year involving teenage drivers included:
- Some type of interaction with one or more passengers in the vehicle – 15 percent
- Using a cell phone – 12 percent
- Looking or searching for something inside the vehicle – 10 percent
- Moving or singing to music while operating the vehicle – 8 percent
- Looking at something or someone outside the car while driving – 9 percent
- Grooming while driving – 6 percent
- Reaching for something inside the vehicle while driving – 6 percent
Texting While Driving
Texting while operating a motor vehicle is one of the newest distractions for drivers in the United States, especially young drivers. This behavior is especially dangerous because it causes the motorist to avert their eyes from the roadway for approximately 4.6 seconds on average. This means that when the vehicle is traveling 55 mph, it will move more than 100 yards – the length of a football field without the driver paying attention to any roadway conditions.
Studies indicate that one fourth of all teenagers will respond to text messaging at least once every time they are behind the wheel. In addition, one out of every five teens admit that they have had ongoing multiple message text conversations with friends while driving.
What Parents Can Do
The role of parenting as an effective tool for preventing a teenager from driving distracted cannot be understated. Teaching teens about the dangers of driving distracted by using cell phones or restricting the number of passengers in the vehicle when the child is learning how to drive is crucial when the teen needs to develop safe driving behaviors.
Parents who set specific ground rules on avoiding distracted driving have saved many lives. Many parents have created driving agreement between themselves and their teenager that often outlines strict rules concerning distractions that must be obeyed if the teen is tomaintaintheir driving privileges.
Other parents optimize their child’s abilities behind the wheel by making them participate in a comprehensive driver’s education program. These programs teach teenagers the dangers of operating a vehicle while distracted and how it diminishes their abilities to drive effectively and increases the crash risks.
Stricter Cell Phone Use Laws Are Necessary
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is pushing for stricter laws involving cell phone use and passenger restrictions when teen drivers are driving. It is their belief that any more than a single passenger in the vehicle causes too much distraction for the young, inexperienced motorist. Traffic safety groups, including AAA, believe that states should mandate certain requirement for licensing by restricting how many passengers can ride in vehicles driven by teenagers and prohibit the use of cell phones by all teens operating motor vehicles.
It is essential that parents take all necessary steps to monitor their children who are given the privilege of driving public roads. It is essential to remain concerned about the safety of teen drivers and others on the roadway. By enforcing stricter laws, many lives can be saved.