Distracted driving is a serious problem in New Jersey and around the country. In fact, it has become such an issue that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an initiative to alert the public about its effects and to offer solutions. According to NHTSA, driver distractions lead to fatalities that may exceed 3,000 per year.
Not surprisingly, young drivers are more susceptible to the temptations of distractions such as electronic devices. Use of these devices is particularly harmful because it takes not only drivers’ eyes, but also their mental attention, off the road. In one survey, participants indicated that they believe it is extremely dangerous for drivers to send and read texts, and statistics show that this is correct. However, responders in the 16 through 24 age group admitted to the activity at a much higher rate than adults over 25 years old. Perhaps this is one cause for the higher number of collisions experienced by younger drivers.
Despite the grim statistics, parents of teen drivers may take active steps to help their children make wise choices. The National Safety Council’s Drive It Home program outlines several recommendations for parents. Communication is key for parents of young drivers. An important step is to discuss clearly which behaviors are acceptable behind the wheel and which are not. Talking about safety is not enough, though. Because actions speak louder than words, parents also need to model good driving behaviors. Even when teens know what to do, it may not come naturally. Parents can facilitate good habits by riding along, paying attention, and offering pointers to their inexperienced drivers.