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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 2017 across the United States, 3,166 people were killed in a distraction-related crash, with teens having the highest rate of distracted driving crashes causing a fatality. In 2016, an estimated 434,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. (NHTSA)
  • 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.

There are three kinds of distractions:

  • Visual — doing something that requires the driver to look away from the driving task.
  • Manual — doing something that requires the driver to take one or both hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive — doing something that causes the driver’s mind to wander or focus elsewhere.

To combat this growing epidemic, we suggest the following:

  • Set a good example: Kids observe and learn from their parents. Put your phone away while driving and only use it when you are safely pulled over. According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of teens aged 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 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 using the phone or other electronic devices while behind the wheel. Enforce the limits set by the Graduated Licensing Program (GDL).
  • 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, such as paying for tickets or loss of driving privileges.

Other dangerous distractions: In Rhode Island, operators under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any wireless devices when behind the wheel. It is important to remember that distracted driving includes many other activities such as, eating, grooming, drinking, listening to or adjusting the radio, using the GPS, talking to passengers, and watching videos, just to name a few activities. Inexperienced drivers are particularly susceptible to these kinds of distractions. Wearing both earbuds while driving is also dangerous, as well as illegal. Earbuds can distract a driver and diminish their ability to hear emergency vehicles and other audio safety signals. One earbud is allowed, but not both.

Eyes on the road

Teens tend to look away from the road and become distracted for longer periods than experienced 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 adjusting the temperature. Coach them repeatedly on the importance of focusing on the road ahead.