Lesson 8: The Many Risks of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is a confounding epidemic on our roads. Like speeding and other risks, most drivers admit it is dangerous, yet they assume they are the exception who can do it safely. Look around on any road and you can find evidence of this contradiction: drivers texting, making calls and posting to social media. You might not be able to prevent others from driving while distracted, but you can help your teen avoid this risk.
A good way to approach this risk is to make it realistic for your teen. Go for a drive together but stay behind the wheel. While on a highway or similar busy street, point out an obvious landmark and then have your teen shut his or her eyes. Have your teen count aloud for five seconds – a typical amount of time for sending a text – then open his or her eyes and find that same landmark. Can your teen imagine driving that far without looking at the road? Explain that driving distracted can be like driving with your eyes closed, and that even if it’s only for a few seconds, it can put every road user at risk.
Though cell phones are one of the biggest culprits, anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off of driving can be a risk. Even common distractions like eating, talking with a passenger or staring at a car stopped on the side of the road can put your teen at risk. Though all drivers should scan the road and stay alert to changes in traffic, your teen can’t let this scanning take his or her attention away entirely.
Practice: A great habit for your teen to form is to put his or her phone in the glove compartment while driving to avoid temptation. However, it’s also important for your teen to identify distracted drivers on the road. This can help your teen learn the importance of spotting hazards and taking action to avoid them, like slowing down and giving them more space.