We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the road and see someone swerving in their lane; you pass them and see they’re typing away on their phone.
Or maybe you’re bored on a long road trip and hear your phone vibrate, so you look at the text message only to look up and be forced to overcorrect before you end up in a ditch.
Distracted driving is an epidemic that has gained traction over the last decade largely due to cellphones and the increased popularity of texting. But distracted driving is anything that prevents you from giving full attention to the task at hand: operating a vehicle.
Know the facts
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 16% of all fatal collisions can be attributed to distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also conducted a study and reported that nine people are killed and more than 1,153 are injured every day because of distracted driving.
The most common distractions – eating, using your phone, and using navigation systems. Texting and checking emails are the most dangerous instances of distracted driving because they incorporate the three facets of distraction: taking your eyes, hands, and mind off of the road/wheel. Using your phone is also dangerous as it takes your attention away for longer periods of time than other distracted driving activities – the average is five seconds.
Even talking on the phone using a hands-free device is dangerous because you can become more focused on your conversation than on driving.
So what can you do?
It’s summer, which means an influx of teenagers have begun to hit the roads. If you’re a parent, sit your child down and talk to them about:
- The laws about cellphone use while driving in your state. Take this opportunity to implement household rules and educate them on the potential consequences of the act such as fines, injuries, and death. This issue is very serious and should be explained as such.
- Speaking up when they’re in the passenger’s seat. Whether they notice a friend or family member using their phone while driving, your child should offer to text for them or tell the driver to put the phone away until the pair arrives at their destination.
If you want your child to be safe behind the wheel, you also must lead by example.
Put your phone away. Consider placing it in the glove compartment for the duration of your drive. If you don’t see it light up or hear it vibrate, you won’t be tempted to check it. Any text message or email can wait until you’re done driving. Even looking at your phone for five seconds – if you’re driving at 55 mph – is like traveling the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
With so many hazards associated with distracted driving, it’s best to always avoid it. If you’re on a long road trip, stop and eat inside when you get hungry. If you get a text message, wait until you’ve gotten to where you’re going to read it. Keep your full attention on the task at hand when you’re in the driver’s seat so you can react to traffic with ease at a moment’s notice.