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Teens & Distracted Driving

Driving is the first true taste of freedom for many teenagers. But with every great freedom comes responsibility.

Distracted driving is an increasingly serious problem in America, and teen drivers are some of the most susceptible to its dangers. In the face of so many distractions, driving more responsibly is not just important—it very well could be life-saving.

Distracted Driving Factors

There are several major forms of distracted driving that everyone—not just teens—may be affected by; specifically:

  • Manual distractions—Anything taking your hands off the wheel or feet off the pedals.
  • Cognitive distractions—Anything taking your mind off driving.
  • Visual distractions—Anything taking your eyes off the road.

To combat these types of distracted driving, you should:

  • Finish all personal grooming before getting in the car.
  • Eat or drink BEFORE long drives or stop to eat any snacks.
  • Make sure all children, pets, or other passengers are secured before starting the car.
  • Make all adjustments to mirrors, GPS directions, or music selections before driving.

In general, if something arises that needs your attention, and you can't take care of it before or after your trip, it's a good idea to pull over in order to deal with it. Don't take the chance of handling it while you're driving.

Teens & Driving Distractions

Teenagers comprise a higher-risk group of distracted drivers for a number of reasons, not least of which being that they are typically much newer drivers in general.

Aside from their inexperience, which in itself may lead to more anxiety and less focus on the road, teens are typically:

  • More likely to speed while they're driving.
  • Less likely to wear seatbelts.

Coupled with cognitive, manual, and visual distractions, these behaviors lead to many accidents—and, unfortunately, deaths. In fact, in many studies, teens are shown to suffer the highest fatality rate caused by distracted driving compared to other age groups.

Specifically, teens are more susceptible to several distracting actions while behind the wheel.

Texting & Driving

Texting and driving is a problem for all drivers, regardless of their age. Reading or sending a text is a distracted driving triple-threat because it falls into all three categories—it:

  • Splits your attention with the driving you should be focusing on.
  • Takes your hands off the wheel.
  • Takes your eyes off the road.

For teens specifically, these types of behind-the-wheel conversations seem to be especially prevalent (and dangerous). Several studies have found that teens are more likely to:

  • Text while driving.
  • Hold an ongoing, multi-text conversation while behind the wheel.

Eventually, all those seconds with no eyes, hands, or minds on the road add up.

Driving with Other Teens

Holding any type of conversation with someone else is a huge distraction from driving, and some tests show talking to someone inside the car can actually be more distracting for teens than texting.

This may be due to the fact that teens are typically more susceptible to peer pressure. Many studies have shown that when teenagers are the passengers of other teenaged drivers, the accident rate greatly increases.

Couple the distractions that passengers offer with a teen's likelihood of driving more quickly and without a seatbelt, and there is a lot of potential for the accident to be a deadly one.

Mobile Apps

Texting isn't the only technological triple-threat that can take place inside a car.

In an age of increasingly connected vehicles, many cars are fitted with a number of different applications that could take your eyes and attention off the road and your hands off the wheel, including those that let a driver:

  • Surf the web.
  • Update their social media.
  • Pick or change a music channel.

This goes without mentioning the other apps found on many teenagers' phones that could take their attention away from driving.

However, some apps actually encourage you to drive distraction-free. Visit our Apps to Fight Distracted Driving page to learn more about these apps.

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

In general, the best way to avoid being a distracted driver is to minimize the number of activities or tasks going on in the car, by, among other suggestions:

  • Driving without any passengers.
  • Turning your phone off while driving, or letting a passenger hold it.
  • Choosing a single radio station, album, or playlist to listen to while driving.
  • Taking our quiz to learn more about distracted driving.

Teens can encourage their peers to stop driving distracted by:

  • Pledging to commit to safe driving.
  • Sharing information about safe driving on social media.
  • Calling out their friends for bad driving behavior.

By utilizing these steps and others, teens can be the difference between a dangerous driving environment, and cruising the open roads with joy and ease.

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