5 Tips for Reducing Distraction While Driving
Having run a driving school for the last 5 years, I’ve become highly sensitized to the fact of fatal accidents among teenagers. Auto accidents account for over a third of all teen deaths nationwide. Here are some tips to keep you alive.
1. Be aware of who is in your car
Once you have your license it’s fun to be able to drive your friends around, but some passengers can be extremely distracting, especially to new drivers who just have their feet wet when it comes to driving independently. When you consider bringing passengers along with you, take a moment to think clearly about how they interact with others and whether they can respect the fact that you need an atmosphere where you can focus on driving and not socializing. Having a safe driving atmosphere in your car will help prevent distracted driving. Friends in the car is a leading cause of accidents among teen drivers.
2. Don’t give in to peer pressure
As a new teen driver, it can be hard to deal with peer pressure related to driver behavior. Friends will pressure you to “race” them and you may feel the urge to drive fast or recklessly in order to seem edgy or impress your friends. In the end it is not worth giving in to these pressures because the consequences can be brutal. Death, serious injury, and jail time are all possible consequences of giving in to pressure like this. Try to find ways of impressing your friends outside of the driver’s seat and show your competitive edge through sports instead of racing.
3. Don’t listen to music too loud
It is tempting to blast music loudly as soon as you can drive on your own, but that can be dangerous. Playing loud music inhibits you from hearing important road noise and traffic noise like horns, sirens, or pedestrians screaming, “Look out!” Loud music can be especially harmful to a new driver who is not accustomed to all the sensory information that needs to be taken in while driving. Additionally, it is easy to get wrapped up in singing and “dancing” to your music and that can be distracting and lead to dangerous accidents.
4. Never use your phone
It has been said again and again, but do not use your phone while driving. In addition to being illegal, it is incredibly dangerous. My own son rear ended a person ON THE HIGHWAY because he was trying to pick a podcast to listen to. Since the person he rear ended was doing 65 mph, he must have hit them at 75 or 80 mph. Fumbling with music, texts, Snapchats, and more can be the difference between life and death. There is a reason that distracted driving is a massive factor in many wrecks. Don’t make this mistake. Pull over to use your phone.
5. Don’t just use your mirrors
Another mistake that young drivers make is that they get too confident in their use of mirrors. It is easy to get overly confident and not double-check over your shoulder that you are clear when merging and changing lanes. Take time to check over your shoulder and ensure that you aren’t missing vehicles in your mirrors due to blind spots. The rule of thumb is that you should monitor all your mirrors every 3 seconds while driving (in other words, constantly) but you STILL need to look over your shoulder before committing to a lane change because someone could be in your blind spot.
The only accident I was ever responsible for was me running someone off the road and into a fire hydrant because I changed lanes without looking and pushed him off the road. It happened in my first year of driving, when I was 16 years old.
You aren’t immortal. You need time to internalize all the good habits that make a person a safe and defensive driver. For the first few years after getting your license, you will need to pay extra attention to driving in order to stay alive and keep your passengers safe. Good luck and please drive safely!