Parent's Guide to Teen Driving - Part 2: Distracted Driving

The Sawaya Law Firm and Colorado Department of Transportation have teamed up to create a guide for teen drivers and parents – The Developing Good Driving Habits Handbook.

Part Two – Distracted Driving

Every year, thousands of people are killed and hundreds of thousands more are injured in crashes caused by distracted driving. It’s important to talk to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving, and make sure he or she understands the various types of distractions.

Common distractions include:

  • Talking or texting on cellphones
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Traveling with pets
  • Looking at GPS or maps
  • Listening to music
  • Putting on makeup
  • Shaving
  • Eating and drinking
  • Other drivers
  • Using social media
  • Playing video games

Know What Apps And Games Your Teen Uses

It seems like new distractions are popping up all the time. Particularly in the world of cellphone apps and games, teens can easily get sucked into driving distractions. For example:

  • Snapchat’s speed filter encourages users to take photos of themselves while tracking their speed. In September 2015, a teenager in Atlanta was involved in a serious accident while allegedly trying to take a photo of herself going more than 100 miles per hour.
  • Pokémon Go encourages players to find characters by using a cellphone’s GPS and camera to spot them. In July 2016, when the craze really took off, a New York driver playing the game crashed into a tree.

There’s no telling what the next big distraction will be, so keep an eye on what’s keeping your teen glued to his or her phone. Chances are, if it’s distracting at home, it may also be distracting while driving.

Teach Your Teen To Identify Types Of Distracted Driving

It’s difficult to develop a complete list of distracted driving behaviors because different things are distracting to different people. Particularly with teens, new technologies and trends will develop that could promote bad driving habits. That’s why it’s important to make sure teens understand the general categories of distracted driving, so they can make informed decisions about what types of activities might be considered distracting.

Typically, distracted driving can be divided into three categories:

  • Visual distractions: These distractions cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. They could be inside the vehicle, such as looking at a text message, checking a GPS, or turning to talk to a passenger. They could also be outside the vehicle, such as flashing signs, groups of people on bikes, or other drivers drawing attention to themselves.
  • Manual distractions: These distractions cause drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel. They could include holding a snack or drink, changing the music, or reaching over to pet an animal in the car.
  • Cognitive distractions: These distractions cause drivers to take their mind off the road. This could include daydreaming, thinking about an argument with a friend, or going over a school assignment in your head.

Some distractions may span multiple categories. For example, putting on makeup would take your teen’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, and mind off the task of driving. Encourage your teen to list some distractions that could fall into each of these categories to ensure they understand exactly what would constitute a distraction.

Parent's Guide to Teen Driving

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Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.