Part 1: Teenagers’ Cell Phone Usage While Driving
Driving can be a dangerous pursuit even for experienced motorists; for teenagers who have just begun to drive, however, the risks are even greater. Inexperienced drivers have not yet mastered their ability to take in the many potential threats around them, and the risk of distraction from cell phones can make this learning curve a particularly hazardous one. In this first of this five-part series on teen driving, we will focus on the issue of cell phone usage among teenage drivers and how parents can help their teens develop safer driving habits.
Cell phones play a part in an estimated 12 percent of all car crashes. This kind of distracted driving can seriously impair reaction time, even when the driver uses hands-free mode instead of actually holding the device. Since the human brain can only focus on one task at a time, driving-related brain activity declines by 37 percent during cell phone use. It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that reaction time on the road is impaired by 35 percent when the driver is texting — compared to a mere 12-percent decline in drunk drivers.
An estimated 88 percent of teens have access to a cell phone. Many of these teens carry their phones with them in the car and use their phones while driving. The distraction of using and speaking on a cell phone, combined with the relative inexperience of these teen drivers, can have devastating consequences.
Parents should know of several smart strategies that can help their teen drivers develop safe cell phone habits. For instance, certain software programs can automatically switch the phone into safe mode whenever it detects that the vehicle is moving at more than 10 miles per hour. Teens who own iPhones can also be taught to switch their phones to “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode. But the safest strategy of all is to teach teens the habit of powering off their phones or placing them out of reach while driving.