According to the AAA Foundation, 94% of Americans consider texting while driving to be unacceptable behavior. Why then do more than 1/3 of us admit to engaging in it? Statistics show that any sort of cell phone use quadruples a driver’s risk of crashing–a number that skyrockets when it comes to teenagers.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. Why? Because of a combination of factors that include inexperience, alcohol and—you guessed it—distractions. While the aforementioned habit of texting is just one of the many culprits, it’s where we’ll start.
Texting while driving is a problem among every age group, but it is particularly heightened among younger drivers due to their culture. Statistics released in March of this year showed that today’s teenagers send and receive an average of 60 texts per day. And because teens reportedly expect text messages to be answered within five minutes, they feel compelled to reply to them immediately, even if they are behind the wheel. Now consider that reading the average text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds—the time it takes to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph—and that sending one takes even longer. It’s no wonder text messaging is banned for young drivers in most states! It’s a hazardous and life-threatening habit not just for them, but also for other drivers and the teen’s own passengers.
Which leads us to distraction number two. The accident risk for teenagers increases with each additional person who is added to the car. Having one passenger doubles their risk for an accident while two or more increases that figure by a whopping five times that of a solo ride. The reasons for this range anywhere from simple noise levels to the encouragement of friends to engage in risky driving behaviors.
Another common distraction for teenage drivers is food. We all know that teens can be bottomless pits when it comes to appetites, and this presents a hazard when they are trying to steer a car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), eating and/or drinking (even non-alcoholic beverages) behind the wheel increases a driver’s accident risk by 80%. The NHTSA even categorized the most common accident-causing items ranking coffee as the top offender followed closely by fast foods such as tacos and burgers. While teens aren’t the only ones at risk for accidents based on mobile eating habits, it certainly doesn’t make their situation any easier.
While this list of distractions isn’t comprehensive (we haven’t even touched on adjusting the radio, loud music, rubbernecking or smoking), we hope it gives you an idea of why distracted driving poses such a threat to our teenage drivers. Inexperience behind the wheel is challenging enough without the added temptation to disengage from the task at hand. However, the good news is that the risk of falling victim to these dangerous behaviors can be significantly lessened through effective communication and encouragement.
Parents, as your children’s main role models, talk to them about the dangers of distracted driving. Set good examples with your own driving habits and don’t be afraid to set rules or ask pointed questions. Consider limiting the number of passengers allowed in your teen’s car and pose penalties if they are caught texting behind the wheel. And don’t forget to encourage their good driving behaviors. Because they want your approval, they will be more likely to repeat any action that is applauded including avoiding the cell phone while driving.
At Waterloo Automotive, we want our customers to stay safe on the road. If we could snap our fingers and eliminate all distractions from our teenage drivers we’d do it in a heartbeat. But since we can’t do that, we’ll simply do our best to serve them through great auto service and by being a trusted partner for the road of life ahead.
For any and all of your automotive needs in the Waterloo area call Waterloo Automotive (618) 937-8438! We care about your safety and we are he to answer any and all of your automotive questions!