Distracted Driving Might Be the Leading Cause of Car Accidents for Younger People
Recent news highlights the dangers of distracted driving amongst the youth. Here's what you should know and what to do.
Did you know that driving distracted actually has a huge impact on your safety? Distracted driving isn't inherently illegal – it's anything you're doing while driving that can take attention away from driving. Distracted driving is actually a huge category that encompasses many other kinds of negative driving. It doesn't just include driving while talking using your cellphone, but also texting with your phone. It can also include changing the radio station, turning to talk to your children, drinking non-alcoholic beverages, eating, and talking with a hands-free headset.
Because all of these activities are legal, there's no real way to prohibit distracted driving (except disallowing use of cellphones while driving). Talking with a hands-free device is legal, but if you're having an emotional conversation, it could divert your mind from driving and increase your risk of getting into a car accident.
Sadly, distracted driving accounts for a dangerous proportion of annual car accidents and car accident injury. In 2014, almost 440,000 people got injured from distracted driving. But it seems like distracted driving is more prominent among the youth – with 27 percent of all distracted drivers being in their 20s (and maybe even teens).
If you're a young driver, here are some tips to keep you safe:
Don't drive to cool your head. Experienced and adult drivers can take drives to calm their minds, but if you're still going through turbulent social relationships as a young adult, driving to cool your mind can be extra dangerous. Being a teen or a young adult, you might not have the emotional experiences and maturity to not be fully swayed by sudden emotional events. Older adults have learned from their past social experiences and won't overreact when they see a text from their significant other telling them to answer right away or else they're breaking up with them forever. They know from past relationships that this simply is not true and such a text isn't an emergency. But you might not have the social experience to know this, and you'll sacrifice your driving by immediately texting back – and this may lead to an unfortunate car accident.
Configure your GPS before driving. Some people try to punch in their GPS destinations after already leaving in their cars. It takes more than five seconds to input your destination (especially since people use their phones as GPS) – this is enough time for something major to happen unexpectedly on the road (like a child chasing after a ball). If your friends change their plans and you have to meet somewhere else, pull into a parking lot to input your new GPS destination.
Make your playlist before getting in the car. If you're a tech-savvy young person, you'll probably do away with your car's radio and find a way to hook up your favorite portable music device to your car's stereo. But it's probably harder to switch and manage songs on your portable device than it is on your car's radio. Remember that a car radio is sort of meant to be used while driving, which means it's geared for easier driving without looking. But your portable music device probably requires you to look at the screen and make some complicated clicks before you can switch to your new songs. This can lead to seconds-long distractions that may cause a car accident. It's better to make your playlist before entering the car, then set your playlist to play when you start driving – this way you won't have to fiddle with your portable player again.
Distracted driving is a special danger if you're a younger driver. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe on the road!