Did you know that sending a text message while driving can be equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.19%? It is no coincidence that distracted drivers often look like drunk drivers on the road. Talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is associated with a 4-fold increase in crash risk, and texting while driving increases crash risk by 23 times.
Nearly 1 in 10 Washington drivers is engaged with a handheld device at any moment. A study published by the American Automobile Association found that distracted driving was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes.
Safety should be our primary motivator, but as of July 2017, it is also now against the law in Washington State to hold a mobile phone while driving. In your car you are only allowed to use your cell phone if you are:
- Hands-free and start use by a single touch or swipe of the finger
- Parked or out-of-the-flow of traffic
- Contacting emergency services
What are some ways you can help protect your teen driver and your family from distracted driving?
Lead by example
Almost, if not all of us, have engaged in some form of distracted driving. Talk to your teens about the importance of remaining focused on the road while driving and demonstrate it while you’re driving.
Use your phone only for emergencies while driving. Even then it’s best to pull over to safely make a call. Never text while driving.
For new drivers in particular, limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car. Graduated driver licensing laws, like we have in Washington State, are important and prohibit teens from having teenage passengers in the car with them during their early months of driving solo. Driving with friends can create a dangerous driving environment because novice drivers are focused on their friends rather than the road.
Multi-tasking belongs outside the car
Everyone spends a lot of time in their vehicles, and it may seem like the perfect time to get little things done: calling friends, searching for good music, maybe even text messaging. Don’t. Focus on the road and the drivers around you. Get everything settled before you start driving.