According to the CDC, each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. People under the age of 20 are the largest group associated with distracted driving behaviors.
In order to help prevent teenagers from endangering themselves and others while behind the wheel, it is important that parents and guardians make a point to talk about distracted driving with their children: What it is, why it is dangerous, and which steps they can take to prevent it.
Distracted driving describes any action or behavior while driving that takes the driver’s visual, manual, or cognitive focus off of the road. Distracted driving behaviors include, but are not limited to:
- Talking on a cell phone (even hands-free)
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Adjusting the climate controls or radio (or CD/mp3 player)
- Setting or reading the screen of a GPS navigation system while in motion
Experts say that texting is among the riskiest behaviors to engage in while driving because it requires all three aspects of focus (visual, manual, and cognitive), to be removed from the road simultaneously. People who text while driving are twenty-three times more likely to get into an accident. Teens (and adults) who text and drive are not only putting themselves in harm’s way, but also other drivers and pedestrians with whom they share the road.
Along with the potential for death and injury, texting while driving in the state of Virginia can also result in legal ramifications. According to Chapter 661 of the Code of Virginia, it is unlawful for “any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:
- Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
- Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored in the device nor to any caller identification information.”
With the noted exceptions of the use of handheld devices on the part of emergency vehicle operators and the like, distracted driving is against the law and if an individual is convicted, will result in an immediate fine for the first offense.
As a parent or guardian, there are things you can do to help your children make good choices while behind the wheel. First, discuss the risks associated with distracted driving realistically and often. Second, make and enforce rules regarding cell phone use while driving. Finally, set a good example by keeping your own cell phone out of reach while driving and refraining from any of the behaviors listed above. We all need to work together to prevent injury and fatalities caused by distracted driving.