Homecoming mums and garters are on display, students are working on clever ways to ask a date to the festivities, and football teams are gearing up for the big game. Imagine a car full of teens after …
Homecoming mums and garters are on display, students are working on clever ways to ask a date to the festivities, and football teams are gearing up for the big game. Imagine a car full of teens after the game heading to their next destination, celebrating loudly, laughing, talking, texting, and posting on social media. It is a recipe for disaster in a car. As we approach the first major high school celebration season and new drivers enjoy a bit of newfound independence, it’s time to remind our teens that focusing on driving – and only driving – when they’re behind the wheel, saves lives.
Distracted driving is one of the most common and most dangerous causes of car wrecks. Tragically, the CDC reports that among drivers age 15-20 involved in fatal crashes, 9% were distracted at the time of the crash. Despite the well-documented dangers of distracted driving, many drivers, and perhaps especially teens, engage in behavior while driving that takes their eyes, hands, and attention from the road.
Distracted driving has emerged as one of the consistent causes of fatality-related wrecks across America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paint a grim reality - in 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available), distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,522 individuals.
Previous generations did a great job highlighting the dangers of driving while intoxicated. This generation must work towards solutions to prevent distracted driving.
Distracted driving encompasses any activity that diverts a driver's attention from the road. This includes texting, posting to social media, adjusting music or navigation settings, and talking on the phone. These activities are common and expected outside of a vehicle, but despite the belief in one's ability to multitask, the fact is that it only takes one second or two of split attention to cause a fatal accident.
To simplify things, there are three types of distracted driving.
Visual distractions involve taking one's eyes off the road.
Manual distractions include actions that require the driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel.
Cognitive distractions divert the driver's mental focus away from driving. Despite not involving physical actions, cognitive distractions can impair decision-making and reaction times.
One of the reasons using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous, is because it involves all three forms of distraction. Texting while driving, and other forms of cell phone use are illegal in the State of Texas but other forms of distraction are not prohibited. Drivers who are caught texting while driving can be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines between $25 and $99. If the driver caused injury or death to another person, they could be fined up to $4,000 and face jail time.
Teens can set the standard for responsible driving by consistently practicing focused, distraction-free behavior behind the wheel. In doing so, they become influential advocates for safe driving practices. Please take a few minutes to review these safe driving practices with your teen driver.
Shane McClelland is the founding partner of the Law Office of Shane McClelland, a personal injury law firm based in Katy. His website is hmtrial.com.