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Distracted Driving & More

Drivers Icon Teaching Your Teen to Drive

Distracted driving involves any activity, such as cell phone use, that has the potential to distract someone from the task of driving. Distracted driving, alcohol, speeding, and not wearing seat belts can lead to death and injury in crashes. Teens, who are still learning the complex skills of driving, are particularly susceptible to distractions while behind the wheel. Don’t let you or your teen become another statistic. Here are the facts:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Mile for mile, teens are involved in 3 times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. And 1 in 3 teens who text say they have done so while driving.
  • In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. That’s an 11 percent increase from the estimated 387,000 injured in 2011.
  • A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study revealed that physically dialing a phone while driving increases the risk of a crash as much as 6 times. Texting is riskier still, increasing collision risk by 23 times.

To combat this growing epidemic, we suggest the following:

  • Know the law: It is illegal in Colorado for teen drivers under age 18 to talk or text on a wireless phone while driving. And for everyone 18 and older, texting while driving is strictly prohibited.
  • Set a good example: Kids observe and learn from their parents. Put your phone down while driving and only use it when you are safely pulled over. According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of teens 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves and others in danger.
  • Talk to your teen: Discuss the risks and responsibilities of driving and the danger of dividing their attention between a phone call and the road. Show them the statistics related to distracted driving and urge them to share what they learn with their friends. Make them aware of other consequences like an expensive ticket and points against their license that could put them at risk of losing their freedom to drive.
  • Establish ground rules: Set up family rules about not texting while behind the wheel. Enforce the limits set by the Graduated Driver Licensing program.
  • Sign a pledge: Have your teen take action by agreeing to a family contract about wearing safety belts, not speeding, not driving after drinking, and not using a cell phone behind the wheel. Agree on penalties for violating the pledge, including paying for tickets or loss of driving privileges. You can find a sample contract in the center of this guide.
  • Other dangerous distractions: In addition to cell phone use, distracted driving can include eating, grooming, drinking, listening to or adjusting the radio or MP3 player, using the GPS, talking to passengers, or watching a video, just to name a few activities. Inexperienced drivers are particularly susceptible to these kinds of distractions.

Eyes on the road

Teens tend to look away from the road and become distracted for longer periods than older drivers. It’s important to train them to keep their eyes on the road ahead. Test your teen on how long they look away when doing various tasks inside the vehicle, such as tuning the radio. Coach them repeatedly on the importance of focusing on the road ahead.