As Students Return to School, Distracted Driving Awareness is More Important than Ever
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nine people are killed every day by distracted drivers in the United States. Almost 1,200 people are injured in these types of accidents. With the beginning of the school year approaching for many in South Carolina and across the country, now is the time to make sure that both you and your children understand the dangers of distracted driving.
A great editorial published in Greenville Online noted the importance of talking to kids about distracted driving issues – especially older children who are able to drive themselves and their younger siblings to school. Teenagers already tend to take risks because they feel invincible, and unfortunately, distracted driving is no different. Distracted driving is dangerous across all age groups, especially for teenagers that are new to driving and cannot process road hazards as quickly as experienced drivers. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19.
The CDC divides distracted driving into three main categories:
- Visual: the driver removes their eyes from the road
- Manual: the driver takes their hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: the driver thinks about something other than driving
Smart phones have dramatically increased all three types of distracted driving. When a mobile phone user receives a call, text, or social media message through their phone, they should not answer the message before pulling over to the side of the road, or stopping at a red light or stop sign. If the phone user does text while driving, it means he or she has committed all of these types of distracted driving at once.
Not only is it important for parents to talk to their newly-licensed teens about distracted driving, but it is also important for parents to model good behavior. If you do not want your teenager to answer their phone while driving, you should refrain from doing so yourself. Just because you have been driving longer does not mean you are any more able to drive while texting or talking on the phone.
A report from Safe Kids Worldwide also shows that distracted drivers are a danger to children while driving through school zones. The 2009 study found that one in six drivers in a school zone was distracted in some way, especially on their mobile phone. Drivers in states that restrict or disallow use of electronic devices while driving had a 13% lower rate of distracted drivers in school zones, but the number was still dangerously high.
South Carolina became the 45th state to ban texting and driving last year, but any form of distracted driving is dangerous – eating, talking, grooming, or even briefly reaching into the back seat for an item. Be especially careful on the roads during the school year.