Distracted driving is a killer, and teenage drivers are at the top of the list when it comes to driving while distracted. As the parent of a teenage driver, the first thing to do is to acquaint yourself with the facts, and what better place to start than with smartphones.
Our auto accident lawyers at the Raleigh office have handled way too many cases involving teenage driver car accidents. It’s the same across the country, without a doubt teens and young inexperienced drivers account for a high percentage of all automobile accidents, including motorcycle and those involving trucks.
It’s no surprise that the biggest cause of any vehicular accident, and this applies to adult drivers too, is ‘driver distraction’, furthermore, teenage drivers have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal accidents.
As the parent of a teenage driver, the first thing to do is to acquaint yourself with the facts, and what better place to start than with smartphones.
- People are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08%. University of Utah
- Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident than undistracted drivers. University of Utah
- Text messaging increases the risk of crash or near-crash by 23 times. Virginia Technical Transportation Institute, USDOT
- Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph NHTSA
We’re all too painfully aware of what smartphones have done to propagate the issue of distracted driving and smartphone use has impacted the rate of road accidents among teens. Who hasn’t seen a young person at the traffic lights quickly consult with their phones when the lights turn to red, and still be scrolling through Facebook or pecking away at a text, some time after the light has turned green?
Of course, it isn’t just smartphones that cause car/vehicle crashes (and it isn’t just teenagers and younger drivers).
So what are the types of distraction?
Visual Driving Distractions
There’s always something in the vehicle cockpit that requires adjustment on today’s modern cars. Whether it be a quick prod at the AC cool settings, fiddling with the channel on the radio or adjusting the electric seats, these distractions invariably put the driver of the car and its passengers at high risk. Not to mention the drivers and passengers of oncoming cars, pedestrians, etc.
Taking your eyes off the road, even for a split second, is potentially lethal and the only viable solution to this is JUST DON’T DO IT.
Manual Distractions That Involve Removing One or Both Hands From the Wheel.
Obviously smartphones come to mind as the biggest reason people drive one-handed. This combines both manual distraction and visual distraction elements into one lethal cocktail.
Other manual distractions are eating, grooming, or adjusting side mirrors, seats, AC, radios – some of these also combining manual and visual. Taking your hand or hands off the wheel, even for a split second, is potentially lethal and the only viable solution to this is JUST DON’T DO IT.
This is certainly a difficult category as it’s something we all suffer from and it doesn’t necessarily involve having a physical element at hand, such as a smartphone. Highways and Interstates are commonly where people become cognitively distracted, drifting off into space and not paying full attention to the road ahead.
In city traffic and smaller scenic roads it’s common to become cognitively distracted by looking around and concentrating on anything but the road.
So basically, anything around you in the vehicle can cause a dangerous distraction, as can events taking place outside the vehicle.
Handling a smartphone while driving, be it sending or reading a text, consulting Google Navigation or checking your Twitter feed, is especially dangerous as it clearly involves all three types of distractions listed above. NHTSA – Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving.
So what can we do to reduce the instances of accidents involving teenage drivers?
Obviously having an ongoing conversation with your teen is a good place to start. Be sure to hammer home the point that driving a car is a dangerous activity that needs to be conducted with care and attention at all times.
Provide them with statistics and cases of where accidents have occurred in your local community (not hard to do) so they can relate emotionally to the incidents and avoid the temptation of thinking that ‘it will never happen to me’.
There are applications that can be downloaded for smartphones that limit their features and functions while in a moving vehicle, so if you think your teen might benefit from something like this, investigate further.
Be involved in where they’re going, particularly at night, and who they’re with. Obviously there comes a point where you no longer have direct influence over your kids but if you instill the right mentality from the start, you’ll have a better chance of them retaining certain disciplines when they’re no longer in your direct care.
Many states have banned texting while driving, including Arizona, so be sure to make your teen driver understand what exactly is illegal and what are the ramifications of breaking the law.
20-137.4A. Unlawful use of mobile telephone for text messaging or electronic mail.
(a) Offense. – It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area while using a mobile telephone to:
(1) Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
(2) Read any electronic mail or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored in the device nor to any caller identification information.
During daylight hours across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, the NHTSA reports.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone.
These are damning indictments against the use of phones in cars, and it’s up to you as a parent to educate your teenage drivers and ensure that they’re aware of the risks involved in driving distracted.
Of course many consider it part of ‘learning to drive’ to get involved in the occasional fender-bender, so if and when that happens to your teen be sure to use it as a way of re-enforcing the issues and raising their level of education. The last thing any parent wants is to have to deal with the aftermath of an auto accident involving their child – dealing with police, insurance companies, car accident lawyers etc.
So be sure to educate teens about the risks and….be sure to set a good example yourself. If you’re a chronically distracted driver it’s going to be hard for your kids not to adopt the same driving habits.
If you or your teenage son or daughter are in trouble and need legal help, Negrete Law Firm can help. Contact our offices at 602-495-1005.