If your family or friends are driving distracted what can you do to stop them?

Written by Jacqueline Jobin, Harini Senthilkumar, and Devna Panda

Practicing safe driving is critical for everyone that enters a vehicle. On our daily commutes, we share the road with other drivers, and therefore, we have a responsibility to drive safely. Sometimes it’s easy to spot other drivers on the road doing things that are unsafe like eating and drinking, talking on the phone, texting, falling asleep, or even speeding. These actions might make us wonder how the careless driver got their license in the first place, but distracted driving can occur within our circle of family and friends.

We may think of distracted driving as a far off issue, but the truth is that a majority of people participate in distracted driving behaviors while on the road. According to AAA, over 87% of drivers take part in distracted driving behaviors each month. These numbers make it paramount to understand that distracted driving is all around us. Our various roles as fellow drivers, passengers, family members, and friends, mean we must all advocate for safe driving practices for the protection of our loved ones. Spreading awareness to those we love can occur in several ways, such as holding each other accountable for unsafe driving habits, having conversations or sharing stories about distracted driving, and being a role model to others how a safe driver should act.

It may seem as though a role reversal is occurring, but youth educating parents, guardians, or other older loved ones that are driving is an effective method to communicate the significance of staying distraction-free while behind the wheel. If the influence of law enforcement is not strong enough, informing them of the harm they are putting on themselves and the people they care about is a likely motivational factor for safe driving. 

According to Indiana University Bloomington, to persuade someone 

efficaciously and show validity, the use of evidence is key. Positive reinforcement of distraction-free driving is no different. Tragic distraction-caused crashes are prevalent all across the United States, and we cannot wait for a crash to occur to a loved one to let that reality sink in. Communicating the dangers of distracted driving through the evidence of these crashes will prove to be a powerful approach. One Split Second · The Distracted Driving Epidemic–How It Kills and How We Can Fix It by Vijay Dixit, including a foreword by MN Senator Amy Klobuchar, is an educational, fascinating book that provides influential evidence and expert insight on the most effective prevention techniques. This resource is highly encouraged for creating positive impacts on driving behaviors. 

Beyond raising awareness, we have the power to eliminate distracted driving behaviors in our friends and family by eradicating the distractions themselves. For instance, if a family member or a friend seems to be continually distracted by their cell phones, taking the device away or encouraging the driver to pull over can defuse the situation before it becomes dangerous. Furthermore, if the driver must respond to a message immediately, asking the driver to handle their phone for them or urging them to utilize hands-free communication are additional methods to ensure that the driver’s attention stays on the road. 

Above all, the most effective course of action to prevent those we love from driving distracted is to lead by example and ingrain distraction-free driving behaviors in ourselves. It is of the utmost importance to uphold our responsibility to ourselves and our fellow drivers to drive safely every time we get behind a wheel. While it is far too easy to make excuses for our actions while driving and imagine that our situations are somehow exceptions to the rules regarding driving safely, the reality is that all of these excuses ultimately fall short in the face of the life-altering damage caused by a crash. Our lives can be irrevocably transformed in a split second when we choose to make a rash decision while driving. This knowledge should guide the choices we make while driving, in turn allowing us to influence our fellow drivers positively.



“87 Percent of Drivers Engage in Unsafe Behaviors While Behind the Wheel.” AAA NewsRoom, 23 Feb. 2016, newsroom.aaa.com/2016/02/87-percent-of-drivers-engage-in-unsafe-behaviors-while-behind-the-wheel/.

“What If a Parent Won’t Stop Texting While Driving? (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by D’Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, July 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/texting-mom.html.

“Using Evidence.” Writing Tutorial Services, wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/using-evidence.html.

“How to Stop Friends and Family from Texting and Driving.” Hupy and Abraham, S.C., www.hupy.com/library/how-to-stop-friends-and-family-from-texting-and-driving.cfm.