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June 21, 2021

Your Teenager and Distracted Driving

Awareness saves lives. The more young people know about the dangers of distracted driving, the more we can prevent it. If you’re a parent or teacher, you have the unique opportunity of educating your kids or students about the risks of being distracted behind the wheel!

Would you let your teenager drive their car after having three shots of tequila? How about if they had just smoked a joint? If your answer to either of these questions is a resounding “no,” you might be shocked to learn that something even more dangerous is hiding in their pockets: their cellphone.

Don’t believe us? A research study done by Car and Driver found that a driver distracted by reading a text message on their phone could respond up to 3x slower to a car braking in front of them - that’s an even slower reaction time than the average drunk driver with a 0.8 BAC! Another study by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory found that drivers using devices and built-in touch screens like Apple CarPlay sometimes took their eyes off the road for up to 16 seconds! This led to increased lane swerving and slower reaction speeds. The study even concluded that a distracted driver could sometimes drive worse than a person who’s high on marijuana.

How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?

With portable technology and personal devices being relatively new - only seeing mass use in the past 20 years - we’re only beginning to discover the dangers of distracted driving. Only recently have governments and private organizations begun taking a closer look at distracted driving.

For now, here’s what we know:

  • Distracted driving resulted in over 3000 vehicle accident deaths in 2019.
  • Distracted driving causes almost 4 million crashes every year.
  • In the US, text usage has increased by over 2490% since 2005.
  • In a study, ⅓ driving-age high school students admitted to texting while driving in the past month.

While the global community is still learning about the dangers of distracted driving, the data we have now is very scary. Not only are many people - especially young adults - commonly driving distracted, but the usage of devices and technology in vehicles is also only increasing with features like Apple CarPlay.

Who’s At Risk?

Unsurprisingly, teenagers and young adults are the most prone to falling victim to distracted driving. With their frequent use of portable technology and inexperience on the road, teens and young adults can get into potentially deadly situations from something as innocent as reading a text behind the wheel. Since young drivers are so inexperienced on the road, they already need more time to assess and react to potentially dangerous situations; throw in typing a text message with one hand and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

With that said, young drivers aren’t the only problem. Older, more experienced drivers aren’t far behind in device usage while on the roads. Keeping the streets safe from distracted driving isn’t about stopping young people from driving distracted; it’s about stopping everyone from doing it.

How Can I Keep My Kids Safe?

The reason that distracted driving has become such a problem with young drivers is the lack of ability to enforce good driving habits. Your kids will almost seldom drive distracted while you’re sitting in the passenger seat; it’s the situations when you’re not there, they’re riding with friends, the music is blasting, and the phones are out that are the most dangerous moments. Despite knowing that distracted driving is wrong, the vast majority of young drivers do it anyway.

While you can’t keep an eye on them at all times, there are a couple of things you can do to help keep your kids out of harm’s way while on the road:

  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving. You would never let them drive drunk or high, so you’ve had a talk with them about it and reinforced that driving under the influence is unacceptable. But have you done the same with distracted driving? Many households rarely discuss distracted driving. If you want to keep your young drivers safe on the streets, don’t let distracted driving be an afterthought - make safe driving part of the culture at your house.

  • Turn on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Many smartphones have a feature that turns off notifications automatically when the device senses that the owner is driving. While this seems like a meager adjustment to make, it can be the difference between a safe drive and a catastrophe caused by an incoming text or phone call! If you have an Apple device, this feature is called “Do Not Disturb While Driving,” while on Android it’s called “Driving Mode.

  • Don’t call or text your kids while they drive. A study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that the vast majority of distracted driving cases were parents contacting their children while they were behind the wheel! We get it, you love your kids (we love our kids too!) If we could, we would talk to them all day, every day, about everything. But there’s a time and place for everything, and your teenager’s commute to work simply isn’t a good time to catch up. If you know your young driver is on the road, avoid calling or texting them while they’re behind the wheel.

What is the Surviving Driving Podcast?

The Surviving Driving Podcast initially started as a StopWrex initiative during the National Distracted Driving Month. Our goal is to connect with advocates, distracted driving experts, and activists to promote ideas and strategies to curtail the distracted driving epidemic. The Surviving Driving Podcast has now evolved into an ongoing initiative after an abundance of safe roads advocates were enthusiastic about participating in the interview series.

Now, our goal is to create an education and conversation platform that supports greater awareness to fight distracted driving. From victims to researchers and activists, we are committed to promote safe-road activism and make the streets safer for all. We hope that teachers, parents, and their kids will unite with StopWrex and pursue the goal of making their roads and communities safer.

How Can I Help? It’s simple: “Listen up!”

Awareness saves lives. The more people know about the dangers of distracted driving, the more we can prevent it. If you’re a parent or teacher, you have the unique opportunity of educating your kids or students about the risks of being distracted behind the wheel! Make safety part of the culture at your household or school, and reinforce the fact that distracted driving is just as unacceptable as driving under the influence!

**The “Surviving Driving, Shocking Stories From the Road” Podcast is designed to help get the point across and support education.

Find us on SurvivingDriving.org where each episode, we speak with a new guest about the dangers of distracted driving. Our first podcast episode will be with Jacy Good and Steve Johnson from Hang Up And Drive. In 2008 - on the day Jacy graduated college - her life was changed forever when a crash, caused by a man distracted by his phone, killed both of her parents and left Jacy near-death and partially paralyzed. A year later, Jacy petitioned her state to ban cellphones while driving, and Hang Up And Drive was born. Stay tuned for that episode and many more to come with new informative and inspiring guests!

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