Back-to-School Safety: Teen Driving

photo_894_20060124For many parents, the phrase “back to school” brings to mind #2 pencils and loose-leaf notebook paper. But for parents of older kids, the announcement of a new school year beginning evokes a very different (and terrifying) image: their teen behind the wheel.

It should come as no great surprise that most teens prefer driving to school. Some studies estimate that nearly 80 percent of teens get their license just so they don’t have to take the bus.

Parents should take the time to sit down and go over these teen driving safety tips before handing over the keys on the first day of school.

  • Pay Attention. Distracted driving accounts for thousands of deaths every year.
    • Do not talk on the phone or text while driving. Drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to get into an accident.
    • Do not fiddle with the radio, MP3 player, or navigation system.
    • Refrain from eating or drinking, checking your appearance in the mirror, or talking to passengers.
  • Limit Passengers. The more friends your teen has in the car, the more likely they are to be involved in an accident. (In Ohio, 16-year-old licensed drivers are not permitted to transport more than one person who is not a family member at any time, unless the driver’s parent or guardian is in the vehicle as well.)
  • Do a trial run. Many teens think they know where they’re going, but things are different without mom or dad in the passenger seat. Encourage your teen to look at a map before they go anywhere. It’s also a good idea to make sure they know multiple routes in case construction or an accident causes a road closure.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. If your teen has been a night owl all summer, encourage them to start going to bed earlier so they are alert in the morning. Drowsy driving can decrease your reaction time, impair your vision or judgment, and can increase your chances of getting into a car crash.
  • Leave early. Encourage your teen to arrive at school at least ten minutes before the first bell rings. Teens who feel they may be late are more likely to speed, tailgate, or drive erratically. The parking lot will also be less congested earlier in the morning.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Remind your teen to never start the car until they are certain everyone is wearing a safety belt (front and back seats.)
  • Keep your cool. Don’t try to compete with aggressive drivers; just stay out of their way. Teens may be tempted to race, tailgate, or “get back at” drivers who cut them off or offended them in some way. Remind your teen that emotional driving can be extremely dangerous. The U.S. Highway Safety Office reports that each year, tens of thousands of automobile accidents can be linked directly to the expression of road rage or by aggressive driving.

As parents, we can help our teens by modeling good driving habits and encouraging them to do the same for their friends.

For more information, visit Drive It Home, a program launched by the National Safety Council which offers specially created resources to help parents keep their teens safer on the roads.

Friends don’t let friends text and drive

By Arthur Elk

Often, when we talk about peer pressure, it is in a negative light. But peer pressure can have a positive spin, too.

In the battle to get teens to stop texting and driving, it appears that peer pressure may be the greatest weapon. According to a new national survey conducted by tire manufacturer Bridgestone America, it is becoming less socially acceptable to take risks while behind the wheel.

The nationwide survey polled more than 2,000 drivers ages 16-21 and found that teens are less likely to text, check email, watch videos or post to social media sites when their friends are in the car. Results of the survey showed that:

  • 95 percent of teens read texts and emails when on the road alone, 32 percent do so with friends, and only 7 percent when they are driving with their parents.
  • More than 90 percent said they post on social media sites when they are driving alone, 29 percent do so with friends and only 5 percent with parents.
  • 75 percent admit to watching a video when alone in the car, 45 percent do so with friends and only 7 percent with their parents.

The survey also found that most young drivers think their friends are more likely to take part in risky behavior than they are. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed believe their friends text and email while driving, but only 37 percent of those surveyed admit to doing that. Only 9 percent admitted to using social media, but they believe that 29 percent of their friends do so.

It is so important that young people understand the dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for more than 11 percent of all U.S. highway fatalities. A report issued in February by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers grew 19 percent during the first half of last year – a far greater increase than for the general population. Experts believe that distracted driving played a large role in that increase.

At Elk & Elk, we are strong supporters of educating young people about the dangers of distracted driving. As parents, we cannot stress enough the importance of safe driving, no matter who is in the car. Your life can change forever, in a moment.


Government sets guidelines to minimize in-vehicle distractions

Earlier this week, a study was released that found that hands-free texting was just as dangerous as manual texting. Now the federal government is taking more steps to crack down on distracted drivers.

It’s easy to get distracted by all the devices in our vehicles. Your GPS is talking to you. You have to change the song on your stereo. Your smartphone is chirping at you every time you get a new social media notification. But all these devices can be deadly because they take your attention off the road, where it needs to be.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has issued distraction guidelines that ask carmakers to put stronger limits on how long drivers can use in-car electronic devices, including entertainment and navigation devices.

The guidelines include recommendations to limit the amount of time it takes a driver to perform a single function on the car’s audio/visual systems to two seconds.

The guidelines recommend that in-car electronic devices automatically have certain functions disabled unless the vehicle is in park, including:

  • Manual text entry for the purpose of text messaging and Internet browsing
  • Video-based entertainment and communications like video calling
  • Display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages or social media content

The guidelines would be phased in over the next three years, giving carmakers time to rework their electronic navigation and entertainment systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s research has discovered that the visual-manual tasks increase the risk of being in an accident by three times. This includes the cell phone, but also factory-installed navigation systems and other screens. The cell phone is still the most dangerous screen, requiring 23.3 seconds to send a text message.

The NHTSA study also found that using a cell phone while driving increases the risk by 173 percent. Hands-free kits do not prevent distracted driving either, because they require a manual-visual interaction at least 50 percent of the time.

These new suggested guidelines from the NHTSA are a great step. However, in the end, it all comes down to personal responsibility. Each individual driver must make the choice to be a safe driver and to not let themselves be distracted by the electronic devices in their vehicles.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, you need an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our free online consultation form.

Elk & Elk wants to help end distracted driving

Managing partner Art Elk and the rest of the lawyers at Elk & Elk are serious about putting an end to distracted driving. Together, we can save lives, one person at a time. Help us spread the word about how each of us can do our part to drive safely.