Avoid distraction while driving

Published 6:36 pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

QUESTION: Is distracted driving an increasing problem, or is it just more publicized?


RESPONSE: It’s true that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has added distracted driving to public awareness campaign messages, along with seat belt use, alcohol impaired driving and speeding. Hopefully, you are hearing radio and television messages and seeing electronic display and newspaper messaging that reminds you that April is designated distracted driving prevention month, which includes enhanced law enforcement “waves.”

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Statistics point to some increasing driving problems. According to the American Automobile Association, more than two-thirds of Americans say aggressive drivers are a somewhat or bigger problem today compared with three years ago.

Additionally, AAA reports that nine in 10 people surveyed also felt that distracted driving is worse now than it was three ago. Although more than 80 percent of people surveyed said that texting and emailing is “a very serious threat to safety” and “completely unacceptable,” more than a third surveyed admitted to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days and more than 25 percent typed a text or email while driving in the past 30 days.

Parents need to be especially aware that teens are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors. Texting, accessing the internet and talking on a cell phone are hourly behaviors for a teen and too many times are done while driving.

In addition, for teens, the risk of being in a crash increases when they transport passengers. The fatality risk of drivers 16 – 17 years old is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone, and the risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increase.

Not only may other teen passengers distract teen drivers, they may encourage them to take more risks, especially young males riding with young male drivers. For 16 and 17 year old drivers, just one passenger increases crash risk by about 50 percent. With three or more passengers, the risk is nearly four times greater than while driving alone.

For all of us, driver distraction contributes to 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes.

 To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.