The National Safety Council has dubbed April Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and distracted driving has become a primary focus of a number of safety campaigns. One of the most persuasive and effective voices on the topic is the venerable EndDD campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while distracted, even for a second or two. EndDD is the brainchild of Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson, the parents of Casey Feldman who was killed in a crosswalk by a driver who took his eyes off the road for a couple of seconds. Their passionate voices have raised an amazing amount of awareness about the issue, but too many people still think the issue is limited to texting while driving.
There is no dispute that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, for the texting driver, any passengers that may be in the driver’s vehicle, and anyone in the path of that vehicle. That said, driving distractions can come in many forms. And distractions seem particularly prevalent when it comes to teen drivers.
The American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted extensive research on the issue of distracted driving, and concluded that 16% of traffic fatalities are the result of such driving, which translates to about 5,000 deaths per year. Since teens are so susceptible to distractions while driving, the AAA Foundation has developed a research focus on the distractions that face them. The Foundation’s research is revealing:
- 60 percent of crashes involving teens are the result of some form of distracted driving;
- In 15 percent of teen crashes, interactions with a passenger or passengers was the distraction that led to the crash;
- In 12 percent of teen crashes, use of cell phones was the distraction that led to the crash;
- In 10 percent of teen crashes, focusing on something inside the car, rather than the road, was the distraction that caused the crash;
- In 9 percent of teen crashes, focusing on something outside the car, rather than the road, was the distraction that caused the crash;
- In 8 percent of teen crashes, the driver was singing or dancing to music played in the car and that was the distraction that caused the crash;
- In 6 percent of teen crashes, the driver was engaged in some sort of personal grooming that lead to the distraction from the driving task at hand; and
- In another 6 percent of teen crashes, the distraction that lead to the crash was the driver reaching for some sort of object in the car.
The take away here is that while working to eliminate texting while driving is vitally important, parents and driving educators will be well-served by focusing on all forms of distractions that can put young drivers and their passengers in harms way.