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Distracted Driving Among Teens

ANITHA on May 31, 2019

When you’re driving, any activity which prevents you from keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is a distraction. According to the US Department of Transportation, over 1,000 people get injured and 9 die every day in the country, as a result of distracted driving.

While texting and using a mobile phone while driving contributes to a significant portion of what constitutes distracted driving, the main culprit is distractions from passengers in the vehicle. As may be expected, the highest number of cases of distracted driving, by age group, occurs among teenagers.

You can learn more (information & statistics) about distracted teen driving in this 70-page report from the Foundation of Traffic Safety.

Causes of Distracted Driving

Here are some of the most common distractions that drivers often indulge in. Though long, this list is not exhaustive.

  • Texting or using mobile device

  • Talking on a mobile phone (especially without a hands-free device)

  • Watching movies on any device

  • Taking selfies

  • Grooming or dressing

  • Eating or drinking

  • Dancing or partying

  • Reading (usually on an internet-enabled device)

  • Emotional or physical stress

  • Fighting or involved conversation with other passengers

Implications of Distracted Driving

In 2016, 3,450 deaths were reported as a result of distracted driving. The mental, physical and emotional trauma of an accident is not something that can be easily gotten over. The loss of a life is heartbreaking to the family members left behind.

On the financial side of things, car accidents are phenomenally expensive. In addition to repairs, there could be legal fees, fines, and medical fees to treat any possible injuries.

Legally speaking, a teen charged for distracted driving even once can face serious implications, especially when it comes to car insurance rates in their adulthood.

What the Future Holds

With the rise in popularity of self-driving cars, parents may consider that it’s not necessary to educate their children on distractions during driving - but that’s really not true! Parents should take up this subject seriously with their kids. The technology on which self-driving cars are built can never fully take into account the dynamic nature of driving. The driver is always required to keep their eyes on the road, ready to jump in at any time. Therefore, driving an automatic or self-driving car still doesn’t give your children a free pass to check their social media feed while in the car.

Talking to Your Children About Distracted Driving

As teens become more confident with their driving style and habits, they might become confident enough to stop focusing completely on the road while driving under the assumption that their reflexes will kick in when required. If teenage distracted driving isn’t rectified, the habit often carries on well into adulthood. The combination of these two facts makes it crucial for parents to sit their kids down to discuss the importance of staying fully focused while driving.

The first step is to educate them on the statistics surrounding distracted driving. Next, inform them regarding the safe practices of driving without distractions. In the meantime, also check their driving routing for any distractions and work on removing them. We’re not suggesting the total removal of necessary items here - leave the radio and GPS alone - but we would like to emphasize the importance of teaching them to stop before adjusting their GPS or radio settings, instead of doing it on-the-go.

Admit that you, too, face these challenges. Talk about how you go about overcoming them. Talk to them about the importance and value of pulling over before taking that selfie or looking at that ‘urgent’ notification. Bring in the moral, financial and physical consequences of distracted driving for themselves and those around them.

As parents, you can also look out for cars that come with hands-free capabilities such as reading out GPS instructions or text messages. Automobile manufacturers are also looking to include sensors which detect distracted driving by tracking eye movements, as a basic feature. All of these, when used properly together, can go a long way towards reducing the risk of distracted driving and save thousands of lives.


Writing credit: Authored by Anitha, a mother of two children with interests in EdTech and a strong advocate for Digital Citizenship.
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