It’s time to have “the talk” with your teen. You need to have the talk with your teen about distracted driving because it’s National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 10-20).

What constitutes as “distracted driving”? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract them from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.” This includes: texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigational system, watching a video and adjusting the radio,CD or MP3 player. Just to name…a lot.

So why are teenagers being singled out when we are all probably guilty as well? Before you skulk off to your room and blast that noise you like to call Hall & Oates, let’s take a look at the scary facts of life. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., more than homicide and suicide combined. Approximately 18% of these collisions are caused by a distracted driver at the wheel.

Distraction.gov is the official U.S. Government website for Distracted Driving. They state that drivers who are under the age of 20 text more than any other age group. In addition, they also text while driving more than any other age group - which just so happens to be one of the most dangerous of all distracted driving behaviors. It not only takes your hands off of the wheel, it also takes your eyes from the road for an average of 5 seconds. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but imagine driving your car at 55 mph the length of a football field. Now imagine doing that blindfolded.

AAA conducted an in-depth study which collected in-vehicle video clips of unsupervised novice teen drivers for sixth months to analyze their behavior and driving performance. They found that the use of electronic devices was the most common distracted driving behavior and that females were almost twice more likely than males to use one while driving. The study also found that horseplay occurred when there were multiple teenagers in the car, resulting in distracting the driver. It doesn’t matter what time Train A leaves the station in Ohio or the opposing Train B leaves the station in Chicago. The problem is that your teen is times more likely to crash when loud conversations/horseplay occurs when multiple teens are in the vehicle. 

Do the math!

Teen Driver + Other Teens in Vehicle = Dangerous6

Since you can’t lock your teenager in their bedroom forever, what do you do? Well there are a number of helpful resources that can get a dialogue started between you and your teen about this issue. If you’re trying to find a way to relate to your kids, you can show them the Glee Distracted Driving PSA that came out when an episode featured a character texting while driving, which resulted in serious injury.We will leave it to your discretion whether or not to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” as part of your discussion (just kidding, do NOT do that).

Distraction.gov is another online resource that has a page on their website called The Faces of Distracted Driving that shows real teenagers from all over the United States who were injured or killed because they were driving while distracted. Bottom line; Do your homework! Check out Keys2Drive, The AAA Guide to Teen Driver Safety for information on teen drivers and what you as a parent or loved one can do before, during, and after they start driving solo. 

Most importantly, you might remember that 80’s Anti-Drug PSA with the punch line, “I learned it by watching you”. So be a good example! Always show responsible and safe driving behavior, starting when your children are young and make sure you talk to them about these important issues. 

Have you or someone you know been affected by distracted driving? Please feel free to share your story with us or send along any other helpful resources we might have missed. You can Facebook or Tweet them to us. 

Thank you!

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