Cell Phones: The Most Dangerous Thing on the Road
Shutting down your smart phone – or even placing it out of reach – may feel like operating without a map. The pocket-sized computer has become nearly everyone's constant companion, and for good reason. With your phone in hand, you can get questions answered and chat with a friend. You can also learn how to get from point A to point B.
But there is a dark side to cell phone use, too. One in four car accidents occur because a driver was using a cell phone. Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, even for a split second, is a dangerous distraction. Cell phone use, in particular, ranks as a top problem. Using a cell phone while driving, whether hands-free or not, makes it four times more likely you will have a collision. When you send or read a text message, it takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. Going 55 miles per hour while texting is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed! Young drivers are particularly susceptible to distractions. They know they should not text or email from behind the wheel, but many of them feel invincible and do it anyway.
Texting and Driving
Texting while driving, reaching for your phone and dialing are the most dangerous activities. Nearly every state has outlawed texting while driving, and 14 states, including Illinois, have banned using hand-held phones while driving. But the problem persists. Our emergency departments see the terrible consequences of distracted driving on a daily basis.
Rules for Staying Safe on the Road
The next time you hit the road, make sure you're up to speed on your state's laws regarding cell phone use. (Many states have laws specifically targeting novice drivers.) Then to keep you and your teen, safe follow these common sense guidelines to stay focused on the road:
- Let calls go unanswered while driving.
- Pull over to make emergency phone calls.
- Make check-in texts or calls after arriving at a destination.
- Get directions or look at a map before starting the car.
If you're discussing these driving rules with your teen, be sure to also establish consequences for breaking the rules. Perhaps most important, make sure you're leading by example. It is the most significant thing you can do to reinforce safe driving practices. Do not use your cell phone while driving, even at stoplights. When you take distraction-free driving seriously, it makes a big impact on your teen.
- Governors Highway Safety Association – cell phone laws: http://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/Distracted-Driving
- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute – teen driver statistics: http://www.teendriversource.org/stats/support_teens/detail/64
- Insurance Information Institute – distracted driving statistics: http://www.iii.org/issue-update/distracted-driving
- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute – texting and driving facts: http://www.teendriversource.org/more_pages/page/texting_and_driving_facts/for_parents
- National Highway Traffic Safety Association – texting while driving 55 mph: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving