Between complicated infotainment systems that almost beg for constant interaction and mobile devices now in everyone's hands, staying safe on American roads is a challenge for even the most experienced drivers.
Sadly, our nation's youngest and most vulnerable drivers are most at risk for causing fatalities related to distracted driving.
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 injured in car wrecks involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of crashes resulting in an injury, and 14 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes that were reported to the police were described as distraction-affected crashes.
Who is most at risk?
The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reported that teens and young adults have the highest rate of distraction-related traffic fatalities.
In addition, the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System findings showed that teens who reported texting while driving were also less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to ride with intoxicated passengers and more likely to drive under the influence themselves.
How to reduce distractions while driving
Distracted driving involves anything that takes your attention from driving and the road ahead. There are three primary kinds of distraction: visual (your eyes leave the road), manual (your hands leave the steering wheel) and cognitive (your mind is on something other than driving).
Drivers, including teens, can make driving safer by reducing distractions. Strategies include:
Only texting or using social media when parked-Smart use of a mobile phone includes knowing when not to use it. You can program automated text responses to let others who are texting you know that you're driving and you'll get back to them at your next stop. As for social media, waiting until you've arrived safely before checking Facebook can literally save lives.
Using infotainment systems safely-While modern infotainment systems are supposed to make driving safer, many interactive and mobile-friendly functions can actually put drivers at greater risk of being involved in an accident.
Drivers can help prevent crashes by disabling texting and internet browsing functionality while driving, asking a passenger to handle navigation on their mobile device, or turning off anything else that affects their ability to pay attention to the road.
Not eating in the car-Eating and drinking, putting on makeup, and even solving newspaper crossword puzzles are popular pastimes among drivers. The solution is simple-eat before you leave or when you arrive. Think of your car as your own delivery vehicle-if the food gets there safe and sound, so will you.
Choosing the right passengers-Choosing the right travel companions is as important for adults as it is for teen drivers. Rowdy passengers, backseat drivers, people who enjoy pointing out things the driver will never see, or passengers who are intoxicated make a journey annoying at least or a potentially fatal endeavor at worst.
The right travel companion keeps things quiet and easy while helping the driver with distracting tasks like adjusting navigation or communicating with contacts by phone or text for you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a distracted driver, you need to protect your rights. Contact a local distracted driver attorney who can help you determine if you have a case.