Teens Most at Risk but Often Learn Dangerous Behavior from Parents
Americans hate to waste time, even while driving. Whether via smartphones or the new hands-free systems standard in many vehicles today, we can talk with friends, family or business associates, search for the nearest gas station, or pull up a review of that new restaurant. Most people also think they can do all this while driving and not cause a crash. But that’s where they’re wrong: An estimated 431,000 people were injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents in 2014, up from 424,000 in 2013. The death toll was 3,179.
What exactly is distracted driving? Cell phones factor into many kinds of distractions, but there are plenty of other ways to lose focus while driving. The three types of distracted driving as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving
This can include texting, talking on a phone, eating, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, adjusting music or reacting to the behavior of a passenger.
Texting while driving tops the list of dangerous distractions and has already been banned in 46 states. Research has shown that texting and driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Texting is also the communication method of choice for most young people. Therefore, it is not surprising, say many safety advocates, that drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Parents can play an important role in teaching their teens about the dangers of distracted driving by setting a good example themselves, yet 48 percent of teens have seen their parents use a cell phone while driving. Fifteen percent have seen their parents texting while driving [download report].
Watch for Other Distracted Drivers and Pedestrians
Even if you’re a good driver and try to stay focused on the road at all times, you have to be aware of others who might be distracted. Ninety percent of adults consider distracted driving unacceptable in other drivers, yet 35 percent of those same drivers admit to driving distracted. Defensive, focused and cautious driving is your best bet to prevent an accident with a careless driver.
Another dangerous behavior on the rise is distracted walking. Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among those 19 and under, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.
Stop Distracted Driving Before It Stops You
Distracted driving accidents may be on the rise, but these incidents are 100 percent preventable. Here are some commonsense tips on how you can protect yourself and others:
- Visual distractions: Keep your eyes on the road, pull over to read directions, and put your phone away.
- Manual distractions: Keep your phone out of reach, make all adjustments before driving, and don’t reach for items while driving.
- Cognitive distractions: Avoid phone calls (even hands-free), stay focused on the road, and keep your emotions in check.
Also consider visiting EndDD.org for a safe driving agreement that you can print and share with your family. Together, we can keep our streets safe for pedestrians and drivers alike.
This article appeared in our April 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.