Distracted Driving: Teen Drivers and Texting

It’s a common scenario: You’re driving down the road, or perhaps stopped at a traffic light, and you look across the lane to see a fellow motorist with their head bent and fingers working furiously. Look again: How old is this person? Likely as not, they’re young enough not to remember what it was like to simply leave the phone at home.

With the advent of cellular devices and their near-constant presence in everyday life, it’s more important than ever to remember the hazards posed by cell phone use while driving.  Distracted Driving is a serious problem.

Distracted driving is an issue that faces motorists of any age, but it’s a particular concern for teen and young adult drivers because they haven’t had as much experience behind the wheel. There are a number of sobering statistics surrounding this issue, and some facts of which every concerned citizen should be aware — whether or not they’re parents of teen drivers themselves.


Cell phone use reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.

This is borne out in research done on the subject: Studies have shown that a driver who’s reading a text will have a reaction time of nearly 1.5 seconds, as opposed to just over half a second when the driver is undistracted. That’s about three times as long — which makes sense, given that the brain activity has been reduced by more than a third.


To put this into perspective, that’s roughly the reaction time that a 70-year-old driver would have. It also means that a vehicle traveling at just 35 miles per hour will move at least another 40 feet before the motorist has a chance to hit the brakes. Another startling fact: A blood alcohol level of .08 (the legal limit for a driver in the United States) reduces brain activity by 13 percent — far below the 37 percent associated with distracted driving.


In 2013, cell phone use was involved in more than 1.2 million automobile crashes.

Of that number, nearly 350,000 involved text messaging — a number that has almost certainly increased as more people become reliant on their devices for everyday activity.


The risk of crash is four times higher when cell phone use is involved.

This number holds true regardless of whether or not the device is hands-free. Talking on the phone is in itself a distraction; when the driver is repeatedly glancing away from the road to read or send a text message, the risk is greatly intensified.


Parents are often a big part of the problem.

Even if Mom and Dad try to set a good example by not engaging in distracted driving themselves, they’re often complicit in their teen and young adult drivers’ bad behavior without even realizing it. The reason? Parents are the ones most likely to be texting the teen driver when he or she is away from home, especially at night. Any parent who knows their child is going to be behind the wheel should give frequent reminders that they are not to read or respond to any call or text while the car is in motion. Some of the later cell phone models have locking features that keep the phone from engaging while a car is in motion; this is the ideal tool to ensure safety, especially for parents.


Tips to Keep From Becoming Distracted

In addition to using the safety features, there are a number of ways to keep from being distracted by one’s cell phone while driving. One option is to simply keep the phone turned off and well out of reach when behind the wheel. For the times when this is not possible, families should have a system in place — for example, calling instead of texting in case of emergency, with the ring tone serving as a reminder that the call should not be ignored. In these cases, the driver should always pull to the side of the road before answering.


Many young drivers are reliant on their devices as a means of finding information, including directions to wherever they’re headed. Make sure that teen motorists have a good idea of how to get where they’re going before hitting the road. If it’s somewhere they’ve never been before, give detailed directions and have them repeat the instructions back.


Texting while driving is illegal in many states, and some have banned the use of hand-held devices outright. For drivers below a certain age, the laws are much more strict and the punishments more severe. To ensure the safety of all motorists, including the teen and young adult drivers out there, these laws should be followed and enforced to the strongest measure.  See our tips to prepare your teen for driving.

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