A distraction is anything that takes the driver’s mind and attention away from driving.
The problem of distractions:
Distracted driving has become a hot topic. Cell phones are a major target, but distractions are anything that take a driver’s mind and attention away from the main task – driving.
- There are three main types of distractions:1
- Visual — taking your eyes off the road
- Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing
- The under 20 age group represents the greatest proportion of distracted drivers.1
- Using cell phones while driving is a serious distraction for a driver, so be sure to let them know and always offer to help if you can.
- A recent survey found that a majority of young teens felt pressure to stay connected or “always on” which contributed to their need to always use their phones, even while driving. Teen drivers were also more likely to text when alone in their car, so your presence could help keep them safe!2
- Most teens reported using Snapchat and Instagram the most while driving2 – are you encouraging your driver to put their phone down while driving?
- The more a driver interacts with their phone the higher their crash risk becomes. For example:
- A driver is four times more likely to crash when using a cell phone while driving, regardless of whether it’s hand-held or hands-free.3
- Texting while driving is the worst distraction because it includes all three types of distractions. A person who is texting while driving is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash!4
- It is important to realize that although you may not be driving yet, you have a lot of power to create a safe or dangerous situation in the vehicle.
- More fatal teen crashes occur when passengers (often other teens) are in the car.5
- Two out of three teens that died as passengers are in vehicles driven by other teens.6
- Research has shown that crash risk and risk of being killed in a crash increases as the number of young passengers in the vehicle increases. One study found a 44% increase in crash risk by adding one passenger; two passengers doubled the risk of being killed and 3 passengers quadrupled the risk of dying in a crash.5
What to do about distracted driving:
- Make sure the driver stays focused on the road. If they are doing something else, remind them to pay attention to the road and ask if you can take care of what they are doing.
- Talk at a normal level inside the car.
- Lower the volume on all portable game players, DVD players, and music players.
- Serve as the designated “texter” for the driver.
- For every extra teen passenger in the car, the possibility of a car crash increases. Remember that passengers in the car can be a distraction, including you.
- Ask passengers to obey the driver’s rules while they are in the car, meaning buckle up and don’t distract.
- Help set the music/radio before the car moves and offer to change the music while the car is moving.
- Help keep passengers to a minimum. If every person doesn’t have a seat belt, you have too many passengers.
- If the driver doesn’t feel well or emotionally able to drive, find another ride.
- Know your driver’s limitations. Driving experience comes with time. It’s ok to not be ready for certain driving conditions. Never pressure the driver to drive dangerously or beyond their experience.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Distracted Driving: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html
- Liberty Mutual & SADD, 2013 https://www.libertymutualgroup.com/about-lm/news/news-release-archive/articles/new-study-finds-teens-fear-of-missing-out-is-proving-to-be-dangerous
- National Safety Council: https://nsc-org-storage.azureedge.net/cms/nsc.org/media/site-media/docs/safe-driving/reports/corp-liability-report.pdf
- Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, https://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/distracted_driving/pdf/distracted_guidelines-FR_04232013.pdf
- Tefft, B.C., Williams, A.F., & Grabowski, J.G. (2012) Teen driver risk in relation to age and number of passengers, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Fatality Facts 2017: Teenagers. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/teenagers#passenger-vehicle-occupants
Updated July 2022