Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” The idea holds up in so many aspects of life. We only improve at something once we do it, over and over again. It’s ironic that we must do things, fail at them, learn from them and do them again before we become knowledgeable and experienced enough to be considered competent.
We have all experienced this concept in our own lives – when we learned to walk, play a sport, do a job or drive our vehicles. It’s the latter of those that is most worrisome, simply because when we drive, we not only hold our own safety in our hands, we also carry the potential to cause others great harm. Unlike walking or playing a sport, making one little mistake can have incredible consequences.
The fact is our youngest drivers are our least experienced. Thus, they are generally the group most prone to making rookie mistakes. That’s a scary thought for parents. In fact, it’s a scary thought for all of us, since we constantly share the roads with young drivers.
Unfortunately, it’s not just inexperience that makes young drivers so dangerous. Young drivers are more likely to take risks than older adults. They are also more likely to engage in specific types of reckless behavior behind the wheel, especially those related to distracted driving.
More than any other generation before, young people are deeply connected to their mobile devices, and they find it difficult to put cell phones away when behind the wheel. They are also less likely than older, more experienced drivers to think that distracted driving is unacceptable.
How Teens are Prone to Distraction
A recent report from AAA found that 88 percent of young drivers engaged in at least one reckless behavior while driving in the previous month. Those behaviors include texting while driving, running red lights and speeding. According to AAA, drivers ages 19 to 24 were 1.6 times as likely as other age groups to report reading a text message or emailing while driving, and nearly twice as likely to report typing or sending a text message or email while driving.
Young people are not only more likely to text or email while driving, they are also more likely to think that doing so is okay. They are less likely to support legislation intended to reduce distracted driving. These findings are in line with other research. For example, a study from 2012 found that 77 percent of young people were confident that they could text while driving, and 55 percent said texting while driving was easy.
Distraction Has a Huge Impact on Driver Performance
Despite the confidence of so many younger drivers, studies indicate that we are very bad at doing two things at the same time, especially when one of those two things is operating a vehicle. One study found that texting while driving increases collision risk by 23 times. The same study found that sending a text required a driver to take their eyes off the road for five seconds. If a driver is traveling at 55 miles per hour, that five seconds would mean traveling the entire length of a football field without looking at the road.
To Be Fair, Distraction Goes Beyond Young People
Young drivers might be more susceptible to the temptations of texting while driving, but the problem has become widespread among other age groups, too. Nearly half of teens surveyed said they have seen parents talking on a cell phone while driving, which is another form of distraction. Twenty percent of surveyed drivers (across all age groups) admitted to surfing the internet while driving. One 2016 survey found that over half of parents admitted checking their phones while driving.
A Few Tips to Reduce Distraction
The number of traffic deaths in the United States soared both in 2015 and 2016, marking the greatest increase in five decades. While the nation’s economic improvement had an impact on those increases, many safety advocates are quick to point out that distraction is playing a greater role in the number of crashes on U.S. roads.
Ending the upward trend of traffic deaths on our roads will take a collective effort, in which each of us can take part. Here are a few tips to keep in mind…
•When behind the wheel, put your phone out of reach, either in the backseat or glove compartment.
•If you need to use your phone, pull over first.
•If you need to get directions on your cell phone, do so before you start driving.
•Be mindful of all activities that can distract you while driving, including talking on the phone, listening to loud music, eating and looking at yourself in the mirror.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do to reduce distraction among younger drivers is to lead by example. Teach your children that it is not okay to engage on your mobile device while driving, and show them that you will also follow that advice.
Aaron Fhima is a personal injury attorney and partner at Neale & Fhima, LLP. He represents clients throughout California.