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 2015, 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. That’s a 10.2 percent increase from the estimated 3,154 killed in 2013.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • Establish ground rules: Set up family rules about not texting while behind the wheel. Enforce the limits set by the graduated 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.
  • 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.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Talk to your teen about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. All gas-powered vehicles produce carbon monoxide, a deadly odorless gas released out of the exhaust pipe of the vehicle. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include: fatigue or weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid heart rate, irregular breathing, confusion or disorientation, coughing, or chest pain.

Tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your vehicle include:

  • Regular inspection and maintenance of your exhaust system and mufflers.
  • Never leave your vehicle running in a garage with the door down or partially down.
  • On snowy days, always inspect your tail pipe for any snow or ice that may be obstructing your tail pipe.
  • If you are stuck in traffic or your vehicle is idling, make sure to partially open a window.
  • Consider installing a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your vehicle and, replace the batteries when changing the time on your clock in the spring and fall each year.
  • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning in your vehicle, exit the vehicle immediately, get fresh air, and seek emergency medical attention right away.

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.