Distracted driving is a growing problem in the United States, causing approximately 20% of all accidents. Each year, thousands of people are killed, and many more injured, in crashes caused by distracted driving. Eating, talking on the phone and texting all take your hands and mind off the important task of driving, but teens are at an increased risk due to their lack of experience behind the wheel. In fact, 60% of car accidents caused by teens are due to distractions while driving.
While many states have a minimum amount of driving hours required before licensing a new driver, some are as few as 6 hours behind the wheel, with an average of 30-40 hours. Newly licensed teens are hitting the road without the ingrained reactions that more experienced drivers have. Over time, the brain becomes trained to drive, taking into account all of the other drivers and road conditions. Teen driving, on the other hand, is a constant learning experience as these young adults learn to navigate the roads. During this learning process, teens are more easily distracted, and more likely to react improperly if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Types of Distractions
Teens can be easily distracted while driving, even by things that more experienced drivers may handle with ease. Distractions can come in many forms, but all take the driver’s mind, hands, or eyes away from the task of driving. Some of the most common distractions for teens include:
- Passengers. While experienced drivers can handle conversations with passengers, teens are apt to become particularly distracted, especially if they have other teens in the car. This is the most common cause of distracted teen driving accidents, causing 15% of them. Some states have passed laws limiting the number and age of passengers a new teen driver can transport.
- Radios and music players. Glancing at the radio to change the channel may seem harmless enough, but teens may be unaware of how long they’re looking at the radio or device instead of at the road. Even music playing in the car can be a distraction, with 8% of distracted teen driving accidents being caused by teens singing and dancing to music.
- Cell phones and texting. These devices are unsafe for all drivers to use while behind the wheel, but teens are especially vulnerable. Teens should be advised that texting and cell phone use while driving are illegal in many areas, and always dangerous. Teach teens to pull over in a safe place if they need to use their phone.
- Activity outside the car. A construction site, an accident, or a person on the side of the road can all cause distractions for teen drivers. Glancing away for just a moment can have serious effects for new drivers who may be apt to overreact when their attention is brought back to the road.
- Eating, drinking, and grooming. When a teen undertakes any of these tasks behind the wheel, they are putting themselves and other drivers at risk. Approximately 12% of distracted teen driving accidents are caused by grooming and reaching for objects within the car.
Distracted driving among teens is a serious problem, with more than 25% of teens admitting to sending one or more text messages or engaging in other distractions each time they are behind the wheel. It’s important to educate teens about the types of distractions they may face, and the importance of minimizing these distractions. Teaching teen drivers how to properly react in a variety of situations can also help reduce the risk of accidents.