cell phones and driving

Distracted Driving Awareness Month!

With as much attention having been raised in regards to distracted driving over the past several years one would think this top cause of preventable accidents and deaths would be on the decline. Since 2015 vehicle deaths are up 6%, killing over 40,000 people this last year. Unfortunately, it is on the rise.  The National Safety Council  (NSC) has an entire page devoted to tools, information and statistics dedicated to educate drivers about the severity of this crisis.  So what will it take to reprogram our brains to ignore every little beep, buzz and ring from our cell phones? Well, for starters here’s a few of those NSC statistics for some terrifying motivation:

  • Drivers talking on handheld or hands free devices don’t see 50% of their surroundings
  • 1.6 Million crashes per year are attributed to drivers using their cell phone
  • 1 out of every 4 accidents is caused by texting and driving
  • Using voice to text is actually more distracting than texting
  • 7% of all drivers of cars on the road are on their phone

So why are we seemingly incapable of turning off that need to immediately respond? For many smart phone owners, the answer is addiction. In CNN’s article, “Smartphone Addiction Could be Changing Your Brain” study after study reveals just how addicted many of us are to that digital rectangle in our pockets and purses.  Per a 2010 Pew Research Study half of American adults send or read texts while driving. For 16 to 17 year olds that number increases to one in three. Even walking while distracted has been blamed for putting the walker at ten times the risk of being injured. Distracted drivers combined with distracted walkers simply can’t have a good outcome.

But wait, the term distracted driving isn’t anything new. We’re simply more distracted than ever before. The hashtag #JustDrive has been created to make the point that the only way to keep ourselves and others safe on the road is to do just that…drive. Lest we forget, our cell phones, texts, calls, and social media updates are only one aspect of the driving behaviors that keep us from being focused on…driving. NSC has several links on information to remind us of all those other preventable causes of accidents still exist such as driving drunk, under the influence of drugs and driving while drowsy, not to mention the simple things that take our eyes off the road just long enough to miss a swerving car or a darting bicyclist.  Eating, applying makeup, flipping through a folder, even just changing the radio station are all seemingly benign activities until one day, one second without focus becomes one accident that never should have happened.

We hope that each and every one of you will take this year’s pledge to #JustDrive.  Share your commitment to that pledge on social media with the #JustDrive hashtag. Spread a life-saving message! 

Blog by: Allison Green

Keeping Teenage Drivers Safe on the Road

Having a teenage driver in the family might just be the most terrifying part of your child transitioning into an adult. Many teens are involved in several extracurricular activities in their school, have jobs and always a busy social life.  My husband and I scrounged up enough money to buy our son an old pickup truck when he was in high school mainly so he could get our daughter back and forth to school for band practice, tennis, student council and seemingly a hundred other obligations. Where most of us as parents can relate to and remember our high school days being a life of constant doing and little sleeping, those of us that did have cars had fewer distractions simply because the technology wasn’t there yet. 

My parent’s minivan had a bag phone in 1990. I never used it, I can’t even remember why- maybe it cost too much to make a call. Either way, I could have never imagined that when my own children became teenagers, they and everyone they knew would have their own phone always on their person.

Any distraction is a potential accident for any driver, though for someone who is still learning the ropes it’s tenfold. The radio, eating, and passengers could all result in a wheel jerk or slam to the brake. A text, a phone call, a notification from social media or a video game yelling at your teen to make his/her move is a new kind of distraction. The kind that nightmares can be made of.

A recent NBC news report refers to the beginning of summer as “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teenage drivers.  The video is primarily based on AAA statistics which state that “16 & 17-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash and those fatal accidents involving teens jumps 15% over the summer”.

So what can you do as a parent to help keep your teen safe? My husband always says “Nothing good happens after eleven”. He based our teen’s curfew on that believing that by eleven the roads became an even more dangerous place to be. Beyond finger-crossed parenting, the same technology that brought our kids the smart phone has also brought us as parents “apps for that”.  OnlineDriversEd.com has a list of the best apps for parents to keep track of their driving and smartphone use. Some block calls and texts during driving while some notify parents when their teen exceeds the speed limit or breaks a driving law. The site warns that even an app to prevent an accident could become its own distraction. As a parent, I also wonder if there’s a point of being too invasive into a teenagers life. Gauging between a possible life threatening situation and letting them learn to make good choices on their own is hard. I experienced those nights where I sat in the living room at midnight with a cup of coffee in one hand and my phone in the other waiting for my teen to walk in the door or send the prayed for text, “Mom I’m okay”.  We didn’t have the technology then that we have today, and that was only three to five years ago.

So let’s look at the numbers; “11 teens die each day due to texting and driving. 21% of teens involved in a fatal accident were distracted by their cell phones” –AAA. 

Here’s another thought to take into consideration, it’s not just our teens who are being distracted by that world at our fingertips. A 2014 USA Today article (the most recent on the topic) states that 26% of all accidents are related to smartphone use. According to ATT’s It Can Wait, 7 out of 10 people are using their smartphones while driving, 10% on a video chat and a shocking 17% taking “selfies”.

Accidents happen.  Cars can be repaired. Turn the phone off and enjoy the scenery! Lives are precious- we can all do a better job to get everyone home…safe and sound.

Blog Author:  Audrey Elder, Past to Present Research, LLC