Grimes & Fertitta, P.C.

Driving dangers: Teen drivers and distractions

Motor vehicle crashes are the main cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Teens between 16 and 19 (in their first three years of driving) pass away at a rate of six fatalities per day due to motor vehicle collisions.

The good news is that there are some strategies that can help teens become better drivers and avoid the collisions that result in fatalities. The first thing to do is to know the eight primary danger zones that lead to fatalities in crashes. These include:

  • Inexperience
  • Distractions
  • Impairment
  • Failing to use seat belts
  • Driving with teen passengers
  • Recklessness
  • Driving at night
  • Drowsiness

Of those, the most significant issue is distractions. Distractions take a person's mind off the road and may affect their physical ability to drive safely.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any behavior that takes a person's mind off what they're doing while driving. That could mean texting and driving, eating behind the wheel or focusing on a conversation taking place. Any of these can be dangerous, but the most dangerous is texting behind the wheel. Texting causes three types of distractions at once, visual, cognitive and physical.

Teenage drivers are particularly at risk of being involved in distracted-driving collisions because of their inexperience behind the wheel and the propensity for taking risks. A 2015 study had students admitting that they'd be more likely to drive while drunk, ride with someone who was intoxicated or refuse to wear a seat belt if they were prone to texting behind the wheel. These risk-taking actions are the reason that so many teens end up in crashes.

Preventing teen driving crashes is key to reducing fatalities on the roads

Prevention is the key when it comes to any kind of collision. Most states have taken steps to make texting behind the wheel illegal, and cellphone use is also banned in some states. As a parent, you should sit down with your teen to talk about the dangers of texting, driving drunk or drowsy, or otherwise being distracted behind the wheel.

You can also discuss the statistics with your teens. Show them videos of dangerous behaviors and other information that will make them understand the risk of driving when distracted. They won't only affect themselves if they are involved in a crash. They could hurt or kill others, as well, which has a ripple effect on the people around them and those who are harmed.

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