Teen Drivers & Distractions: What you Need to Know
For the past several years, distracted driving has been a growing problem in Alabama and throughout the country. As the use of smartphones has become mainstream, the need to “stay connected” has become a major distraction for many motorists. This is especially true among teenage drivers, who are very tech savvy and not always aware of the dangers certain driving behaviors pose.
Statistics on Distracted Driving
At any given time during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 motorists throughout the country are on their cell phones, and on average, nine individuals are killed in the United States each day in crashes that involve a distracted driver. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,166 individuals were killed by distracted driving in 2017 alone.
Teenage drivers are more vulnerable to distractions than other age groups, largely because of their youth and inexperience. For this reason, it comes as very little surprise that teens are the group most likely to be distracted at the time a fatal crash occurs.
More than half of all teens have admitted to using a cell phone while driving, and about 25% of those in this age group admit to having used a cell phone while driving during the past 30 days. Distraction is a primary factor in nearly 60% of all crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19, and even though alcohol-related driving fatalities have decreased among teens in recent years, the number of overall traffic fatalities (among this group) is on the rise. Many experts believe that distracted driving is the primary reason for this.
Why Texting while Driving is so Dangerous
Since the automobile was invented, motorists have always had distractions. Tuning radio dials, dealing with noisy and unruly passengers, eating and drinking, looking at billboards, or just inattentiveness all present hazards that increase the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident.
Texting and other electronic activity while behind the wheel brings these dangers to a whole new level, because they distract drivers in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. In other words, electronic activity on a smartphone demands the driver’s full attention, taking his or her focus off of the road. To help put this into perspective, sending or reading a text for just five seconds driving at 55 miles per hour is like driving across an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Preventing Distracted Driving among Teenagers
Texting while driving is illegal in Alabama and most other states. Unfortunately, just the fact that this practice is against the law does not prevent teens (and drivers in all other age groups for that matter) from sending texts and engaging in other cell phone activity while behind the wheel. We must all do more discourage distracted driving and make our roads safer.
Here are some tips to help reduce distracted driving among teens:
- Education: It always starts with education. This topic will certainly be covered during a teen’s driver education courses, but it is also important for parents to sit down with their teens and discuss the dangers of distracted driving. The more education they have, the less likely they are to engage in this type of behavior. Before you hand over the keys and send them out on their own, talk to your teen about safe driving and the responsibilities that come with being a licensed driver. Remind your teenage driver to buckle up and follow all of the traffic laws; and talk with them about the various driving behaviors that they should avoid. These would include speeding, aggressive or reckless driving, drunk driving, drowsy driving, and distracted driving.
- Put it in Writing: Educating your teenage driver on the driving laws and best safety practices is a good first step, but sometimes talking alone is not enough to get them to drive safely. You might want to take it a step further by putting these driving rules in writing and committing to following them yourself. Teens are more likely to take something to heart if you put it in writing. Create a written contract between you and your teen stating all of the ground rules for safe driving. By having a written contract, your teen is more likely to take ownership and follow what is stated in the guidelines. This also provides a written framework for you to revoke their driving privileges if they do not follow the rules.
- Leverage available Technology: Technology has created more driving hazards, particularly the ability to text and send other electronic messages while operating a vehicle. But there are two sides to the technology coin. There are numerous apps available that can block texts, social media activity, and even making phone calls (except for emergency 911 calls) on your smart phone while driving. There are also apps that can help you track where they are going, so your teen is not somewhere that they should not be. If you feel this is necessary, consider installing one or more of these apps on their phone to help keep your teen safe.
Get Familiar with Alabama’s Graduated Driver’s License Process: Alabama has a graduated driver’s license program for teen drivers. 16 and 17-year-olds receive a restricted license for the first six months after they pass the driving exam. With this restricted license, they are only allowed to have one passenger who is a non-family member and under the age of 21. They are also prohibited from driving between the hours of midnight and 6 AM (except for work and other approved activities) unless they are accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a licensed driver who is 21 years of age or older. Make sure your teen thoroughly understands and follows the rules that come with the restricted license.
- Lead by Example: Finally, be sure to provide a good model for your teen by refraining from texting and other dangerous activities when you are behind the wheel. Regardless of what you tell them, your teen will only think something is important if you are actually doing it yourself.
Injured by a Distracted Driver in Alabama? Contact M. Adam Jones and Associates for Assistance
If you or a loved one suffered injury at the hands of a distracted driver (teen or otherwise), you have a right to be compensated. Before talking with any insurance adjusters, it is important to speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer, so you understand your rights and legal options.
Call M. Adam Jones and Associates at 334-581-9238 to schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Dothan, AL office in person at your convenience.