Memorial Day is a time for remembering fallen service members. It’s also the unofficial start of summer, with people firing up their backyard grills in record numbers, and kids heading to water parks and community pools on opening day. But the holiday weekend also marks the beginning of what traffic safety experts call the “100 Deadliest Days.”
In June 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that in the previous five years, 5,000 people died in crashes involving teens, during a 100-day period beginning on Memorial Day. The foundation also reported that distracted driving is a factor in about 60 percent of crashes involving teens. If you have a teen driver in your family, you can help keep them safe by talking to them about the dangers of distracted driving and being a responsible driver yourself.
Talking about Distracted Driving
It’s possible that some teens (and adults) don’t fully understand what “distracted driving” actually means. Texting while driving is just one form of distraction, but there are plenty of activities that can take one’s attention off the road.
Distractions while driving include:
- Talking on a cell phone, even if using a hands-free device
- Talking to/listening to passengers
- Eating, drinking, and smoking
- Adjusting controls on the dashboard
- Reading a map, or looking at a GPS navigation system
- Driving while angry or upset.
Obviously, every driver may need to adjust the volume on the radio at times, or take a look at a navigation system. Parents can stress to teens, however, that the amount of time spent on such tasks should be minimal – just a quick glance.
The actions people take before they get in the car can also help them avoid distraction – for example, looking at directions to get familiar with a new route, or eating breakfast at home instead of on the way to school.
Setting a Good Example
According to a survey of more than 1,700 teens conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions, teens may be learning their dangerous driving behaviors from their parents. The survey found:
- 91 percent of teens said they witnessed their parents talk on a cell phone while driving.
- 88 percent had seen a parent speeding.
- 59 percent saw a parent send a text message while driving.
- 66 percent said their parents did not follow the same rules that they established for their teen drivers.
If teens believe parents are creating arbitrary rules – rules that parents themselves don’t follow – teens aren’t likely to obey the rules or to understand the risks of distracted driving.
Making a Contract
The National Safety Council says no state laws adequately protect teen drivers from driving distracted, so parents should develop their own rules, put them in writing, and agree that all drivers in the household will follow them.
The NSC, in conjunction with several automakers and other entities, promotes the “New Driver Deal” – a contract that establishes rules for both teens and their parents. Parents and teens can complete the contract together online, using the standard agreement or modifying it to include additional rules.
The standard agreement makes parents promise to be a good role model “and never do anything behind the wheel I wouldn’t want my teen to do.”
If you have questions about teen drivers and distraction, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.