Part 2: Distracted Driving
Previously, this blog series examined the dangers of cell phone use among teen drivers. As troubling as this behavior may be, however, it is only one aspect of the larger issue of distracted driving. It is equally important to have an awareness of some other aspects of these hazards as well, including the risks that multiply when teens add extra passengers to their vehicles.
Even if a driver isn’t phoning, emailing, or texting, the cabin of a car offers many potential distractions. These distractions can cause crashes and fatal injuries. Even music pumped through headphones or speakers can direct a driver’s focus away from the road. If the music is loud enough, important aural signals such as car horns or sirens may be drowned out. (Dancing or singing along to music actually causes 8 percent of all car crashes.)
Teenagers who incorporate driving into their social lives may feel compelled to carry as many passengers as possible, but this behavior increases the risk of dangerous distraction. Drivers interacting with passengers account for 15 percent of all car crashes. Among teens involved in crashes, 47 percent of females and 71 percent of males were distracted by a passenger before their accident. Even one passenger raises the accident risk by 44 percent, with a doubled risk for two passengers and a quadrupled risk when a third passenger is in the car.
Parents must play an active role in reducing their teenagers’ distracted driving risks. Riding in the car with a newly-licensed teen and monitoring the teen’s driving behavior can make the teen more conscious of dangerous habits. Parents can also require teens to agree to limit the number of passengers as much as possible, avoid the use of headphones, and limit music volume so outside sounds can be heard.