Driving is widely considered to be a rite of passage and a milestone for teenagers in the United States. However, there is a danger lurking on the road and it can be triggered by something as simple as fiddling with the radio. Many teens are unaware of how prevalent distracted driving is and what possible impacts it has on their lives.
Distracted driving is defined as the state of driving where any activity diverts the driver's attention from the road, which can include, but is not limited to: driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, texting while driving, eating/drinking, changing the radio station, etc. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), at least 9 people are killed every day in accidents caused by texting driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016 alone, there were 3,450 lives claimed by distracted driving. Those killed could be the distracted driver or an innocent victim who was collateral damage of a bad mistake. But the largest demographic affected by this preventable crisis: teenagers. Teenagers are 3x more likely to end up in a fatal car crash than any other group and 58% of all teen crashes are due to distracted driving. Many people don't think about the impacts of distracted driving until it's too late.
I have never firsthand experienced the dangers of distracted driving, but I hear the stories. At my school, we hold seminars every year about the dangers of distracted driving and the stories break my heart. Hearing about grieving parents and the lives of promising young adults being snuffed out because of their/someone else's mistake is tragic. Hearing those stories makes me think twice about gambling with my life or the lives of others. But beyond the stories, distracted driving and the consequences of that hit close to home for me. My father is a police officer and often puts himself in the line of danger in his line of work. Before I was born, my father was involved in an accident with a driver who was under the influence hitting him on the road. Luckily, my father survived the encounter. However, he was severely injured to where he needed total reconstruction of his face. I walk by photos of him after he graduated from the police academy and see a total stranger that closely resembles me. That photo serves as a reminder of the consequences of distracted driving and how my father escaped with his life.
Consider the following ideas to make driving as safe as possible:
-Put your phone on do not disturb or turn it off completely. If your phone keeps chiming with new texts or other notifications, you’re more inclined to check them or respond to them which takes your focus off the road. To avoid getting distracted, place your phone on do not disturb while driving and you can focus on the road.
-Never drive under the influence. Unless you are over 21, you should not be dabbling with illegal substances such as drugs or alcohol. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are high/drunk and need to drive home, don’t attempt to drive home. You could get into an accident or arrested. Instead, find a sober friend to drive you home or hail a ride from a ride service like Uber or Lift. If you can stay overnight at the place you are currently at, that would be an acceptable alternative to trying to drive home.
-Set up a playlist of songs. By setting up a pre-made playlist, you minimize the chance of messing with your radio or phone while on the road. Having music playing while driving is something many people enjoy, so having a playlist is low risk compared to distractedly messing with the radio.
-Don’t eat or drink while driving. Although, it can be tempting to sneak a couple bites of your meal, eating and drinking while driving still distracts you from the road and is against the law in some places in the US. Consider putting the food on the floor of the passenger seat or have someone else hold it until you are finished driving.
Distracted driving can destroy a life in the blink of an eye and it is preventable. By limiting distractions while on the road, you are making the road safer for yourself and other drivers around you. If you have the urge to drive distractedly, ask yourself if you are willing to face the dangers and consequences of your conscious choice.