Talking to Your Teen About Distracted Driving

distracted drivingAccording to an April 2021 study conducted by the PEW Research Center, “The vast majority of Americans – 97% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own a smartphone is now 85%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.” These statistics are staggering. They also help to explain why distracted driving behaviors now cause so many accidents on American roads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately “8 people in the United States are killed in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.” In 2018 alone, “over 2,800 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver” in the U.S.

Smartphones and other connection-focused technology has allowed American society to evolve in ways that have been life-changing for both better and worse. For example, on the one hand, GPS technology has allowed Americans to travel to unknown locations with far more confidence. However, on the other hand, the distractions caused by cellphone use (even in states like California that outlaw cellphone use while driving, save for use in hands-free capacities) contribute to a staggering number of injurious and fatal crashes every single day. As a result, it is critically important that parents engage in active dialogues and in setting boundaries concerning distracted driving when it comes to their inexperienced teen drivers that may be newly setting out onto Southern California roads.

Distracted Driving – The Basics

Distracted driving is discussed often enough in schools, popular culture, and the media that most teens are probably familiar with the term. However, they may be unaware that there are three different kinds of distracted driving behaviors: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take a motorist’s eyes off the road, which manual distractions take a motorist’s hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions take a motorist’s mind off the task of driving. Some distractions cannot be prevented. For example, an animal darting into the road is a visual distraction and perceiving a severe weather alarm sounding in the distance is a cognitive distraction. However, it is safe to say that most of the distractions that cause severe car accidents on U.S. roads daily are preventable. It is therefore imperative that new drivers are aware of each kind of distraction and how failure to minimize each distraction type while driving can lead to potentially deadly consequences.

Understanding how each of these behaviors can compromise their safety behind the wheel will hopefully lead teens to make better choices about how they approach the task of driving. In addition to cellphone use, any number of distracting factors can compromise their safety as motorists. For example, fatigue often serves as a distraction that many teens don’t take time to consider. When they are driving to school in the morning, the very fact that they are tired can be mentally distracting to a dangerous degree. Similarly, the presence of rowdy passengers, animals in the car, and even intense audio stimulation (podcasts on complex topics, loud, passionate music, etc.) can be distracting enough to become dangerous. As a result, it is important to discuss what distraction-related boundaries you will enforce when it comes to your teen’s driving habits and why observing these boundaries may ultimately save your teen’s life, the lives of their passengers, and the lives of any fellow travelers they may encounter while driving.

“But Everybody Does It”

One of the most significant obstacles that parents of teen drivers face when setting distracted driving boundaries involves the fact that when a teen says, “But everyone does it,” they’re pretty close to being right. According to a recent CDC study, “75% of U.S. drivers ages 18 to 29 reported that they spoke on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days, and nearly 40% reported that they talk on their cell phone “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.” Additionally, “*52% of U.S. drivers ages 18-29 reported texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or e-mailing “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.”

As a result of these mind-boggling statistics, you’ll want to be prepared as to how you’ll respond when discussing the pervasiveness of distracted driving behavior among your teen’s peers. You may also want to set boundaries concerning whether your teen is permitted to drive with others who engage in these potentially dangerous behaviors.

Legal Assistance Is Available

If your teen has been injured in an accident – whether they or another party involved was distracted at the time of the collision – it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your options. California is among the most generous states in the nation when it comes to affording injury victims paths to obtain compensation. Due to its embrace of a “pure comparative negligence” theory of law, California allows injury victims to seek compensation from others who contributed to the cause of their harm, even if they too contributed to the cause(s) of the harm that they have suffered. As a result, you shouldn’t dismiss the idea that your family may have strong grounds for a lawsuit simply because your teen may have been distracted or otherwise contributing to the cause of their injurious circumstances in some way.

Once our experienced team evaluates the nuances of your teen’s accident, we will provide you with an objective analysis of the potential strengths and weaknesses of your case. We will also advise you, in greater detail, about your teen’s rights under the law. At that time, your family will be empowered to make informed choices about any and all legal options available. Our consultation process is both free and risk-free, so you have nothing to lose by exploring your legal options save for an investment of an hour or two of your time. We look forward to speaking with you.