Distracted driving is a serious problem that is costing the lives of millions all around the world. Only in the USA, about 8 people are killed in crashes every single day that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Distracted driving is defined by anything that takes your attention away from the road such as sending a text on your phone or eating while driving. This is a significant problem that demands our attention and support to help solve. A simple distraction could lead to a drastic tragedy and are the most common among young adults and teenagers. In 2019, 61 percent of deaths attributed to distracted driving occurred with drivers aged between 16 to 19.
In the United States in 2018, eight percent of drivers aged 15 to 19 were distracted at the time of the crash whereas twenty-five percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were young adults aged 20–29.1 256 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted teen driver in 2018.2 All these figures point towards the majority of the people involved in distracted driving to be young adults. While distracted driving, the passengers’ lives are also in jeopardy despite all the car’s safety features. Over 57% of teens that died as passengers were in vehicles driven by another teen in 2019.2
The prevalence of distracted driving is mostly attributed to young adults always being on their phone due to the societal pressure of always being reachable and connected with their friends or family. With the prevalence of smartphones, they are always expected to respond to their text instantly or update their whereabouts constantly. One in three teens take their eyes off the road while checking their phone when there is an app notification that comes in while driving.3 This is often caused by their fear of missing out (FOMO) from their social circle and their constant need to stay in the loop and be virtually available to everyone. A lot of the time, it isn’t just about living up to social obligation but rather teenagers feeling pressured to immediately respond to their parents, even while driving. Fifty-five percent of teens reported to text while driving just to update their parents as otherwise they would land in trouble.
Dr. William Horrey, Ph.D in Engineering Psychology, explained why teenagers are easier to get distracted because their minds are still developing and don’t have the full attentional capacity that allows them to deal with all the complexities that the road may throw at them.3 These innumerable distractions while driving could lead to deadly consequences if not rectified. Developing distraction avoiding habits right from when one is just starting to learn how to drive is crucial for everyone’s safety in the long run. To avoid distractions from the phone, it is recommended for teenagers and young adults to simply put their phone on silent or do not disturb mode to prevent being notified. Before starting to drive, drivers could take a moment to update whoever they need to and also inform their parents that they are driving soon and how long it would take them to reach their destination. Simple distraction avoiding habits could be preventing dire consequences.
This article was written by Rachael Chowdhury, Journalism Committee Intern
- “Distracted Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2 Mar. 2021, www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/distracted_driving/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fmotorvehiclesafety%2Fdistracted_driving%2Findex.html#risk.
- “Fatality Facts 2019: Teenagers.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Mar. 2021, www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/teenagers#passenger-vehicle-occupants.
- “New Study Finds Teens ‘Fear of Missing Out’ Is Proving to Be Dangerous.” Liberty Mutual Group, Students Against Destructive Decisions, www.libertymutualgroup.com/about-lm/news/articles/new-study-finds-teens-fear-missing-out-proving-be-dangerous.