This is the third of our five-part series regarding the epidemic of distracted driving that is currently plaguing Colorado and most of our country. How do distractions further impact those who have recently begun driving a motor vehicle, such as teens? Learning to do something new generally takes some time; such is the case with riding a bicycle or learning a sport. When learning to drive a vehicle, the process has potentially more dangerous consequences because we share the roads with one another. Teenagers who are getting behind the wheel for the first time are obviously more prone to mistakes and also tend to demonstrate greater behavioral risks; therefore, extra caution and education is necessary to maintain safety.
Teenagers in the U.S. are typically heavy users of their mobile devices. The typical teenager sends an average of roughly 60 text messages each day, indicating they may be more tempted to use these devices while they drive. This demographic is also among the most likely to engage in risky forms of behavior, particularly when they obtain newfound freedom with driving.
Survey data shows that teenagers are more likely than older adults to consider distracted driving to be a dangerous activity. According to a recent study by AAA, 88% of teen drivers reported engaging in some form of reckless driving behavior in the preceding 30 days. A staggering 77% of teen drivers felt confident about their ability to safely drive while driving a vehicle. Examples of such driver behavior include mobile device usage, disregarding traffic signals, and more.
Sources of Distraction
Young drivers are influenced by a variety of potential factors that relate to distracted driving, the three most common include:
- Friends: Teenagers are more likely to have multiple vehicle passengers when driving. This stems from their desire to socialize, the likelihood of having friends that do not yet drive themselves, and others. The risk of an accident rises when teen drivers have passengers. Parents should enforce rules that during the first year of driving, teens should not have passengers.
- Phones: Teens seem to be constantly using mobile devices for some sort of activity. It is critical to remind teenagers of the dangers of using their phones while driving and encourage them to stop the vehicle prior to doing so. There are a host of available applications specifically designed to prevent distracted driving currently available for download to their devices.
- Music: Teenagers are considerably more likely to be distracted by manipulating their devices for playing music while operating a vehicle. In addition, they are more likely to listen to music at loud levels, greatly diminishing their ability to hear critical sounds such as horns, trains, and emergency response vehicles.
Colorado Teen Driving Laws
Colorado has implemented various laws that are geared toward younger drivers. There are passenger restrictions that those with a driving permit must be accompanied by a parent or instructor and those teens with a license may not have passengers under the age of 21 for the first six months. Teens under the age of 18 may not use phones while operating except in emergency-type situations. Drivers in their first year may not drive between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. (curfew) unless with a parent or guardian. Teen drivers are prohibited from driving with any trace of alcohol in their blood.
Potential Safety Solutions
Drivers under 20 years of age have the highest rate of traffic fatalities stemming from distracted driving. Teens are also the most likely to have an accident associated with text messaging. Parents can play a critical role in teen driving safety. Parents must first set proper examples themselves, as roughly 50% of teen respondents reported recently seeing their parents talking on the phone while driving. Families are encouraged to sign a pledge to commit to not driving while distracted. Teens themselves are among the best proponents of influencing others. Teens should consider becoming active in a chapter of their local Students Against Destructive Decisions and spread the message through social media channels.
In our next segment, we will examine how child passengers can actually be one of the main distractions for parent drivers.