You’ve just gotten your driver’s license. And now you’re texting four of your friends, while driving, to come with you on a joyride.
For a young and relatively inexperienced driver, this is a perfect storm that adds up to “distracted driving,” a major reason why more teens are killed in motor vehicle accidents than any other cause.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distractions come in three types:
- Visual – Taking your eyes off the road, maybe to watch a group of girls or boys walking down a sidewalk or turning to see what your friend in the back seat is up to
- Manual – Taking your hands off the wheel, maybe to reach for a beverage or burger and fries, make a cellphone call or set a GPS system
- Cognitive – Taking your mind off driving, most typically by texting
In fact, the CDC notes “texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.”
Distracted driving is such a big problem that in 2012, 3,328 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes involving a distracted driver; another 421,000 were seriously injured. Teens also have less driving experience than adults and tend to take more risks.
“We’ve had some terrible accidents locally this year involving teen drivers who were killed or seriously injured,” said Dr. James Meyer, an adolescent medicine specialist at Marshfield Clinic. “I’ve certainly had a lot of patients who have died in traffic accidents over the years. It’s tough but it plays out all over Wisconsin and the nation.”
Gently talk with teens
Meyer said parents must avoid being “preachy” about the subject. But a lot of teens will respond to being told their parents love them, care about them and want to help them understand the potentially severe consequences of distracted driving. Some teens aren’t ready for such a conversation, though, but it doesn’t hurt to try.