Drawing a conclusion that should not be shocking to the parents and friends of teenagers, a new study has found that distracted driving – perhaps the biggest danger facing motorists and pedestrians today – is rampant among American teens. Indeed, the vast majority of American teenagers has engaged in distracted driving. Our Chicago car accident attorneys sadly do not find this behavior surprising. We do, however, find it troubling.
This most recent study of teens and distracted driving was conducted jointly by Seventeen Magazine and the American Automobile Association. The two surveyed about 2,000 drivers between sixteen and nineteen years of age. Both young men and young women were included.
The results help to explain why the number of car, truck, bus and other motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving is frighteningly high. An astounding eighty-six percent of American teenagers admit to having engaged in such distracted driving practices as texting while driving, talking on a cellphone while driving, or eating while driving. This is in spite of the fact that eighty-four percent of these teens are aware that these practices are dangerous.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused close to 6,000 fatalities and 500,000 injuries in America in 2008. Among American teens, automobile accidents are the single leading cause of death.
These facts, however, cannot force teen drivers to abandon distracted driving and stay safe behind the wheel. Teenagers are more likely to take unnecessary risks, and often fail to fully evaluate risks and consequences. That is why, of the distracted drivers surveyed, thirty-five percent believe that in spite of their distracted driving, they will not get hurt, and thirty-two percent believe that nothing bad will happen.
The notorious teenage sense of invincibility is also to blame. A staggering thirty-four percent believed that their distracted driving was not a danger because they were used to multitasking – ignoring the basic realities and laws of physics which dictate that a driver cannot respond to a danger that he does not see because his eyes were not on the road. Our Chicago accident attorneys, unlike these teens, have seen too many tragic distracted driving accidents to believe that anyone is capable of multitasking while driving an automobile.
The survey did provide some encouragement, however. Although the teens surveyed attempted to defend and rationalize their own distracted driving behaviors, they were at least uncomfortable when other teens engaged in these same practices. Nearly forty percent of the teens reported having been frightened, while a passenger in a car, by that car’s distracted driver.
We at Passen & Powell can only hope that this fear will lead teens to speak up, and complain about their friends’ distracted driving. With teenagers, peer pressure is the single most effective means of changing behavior – if teens pressure each other to abandon distracted driving, there may be a positive change. In the meantime, parents must closely monitor their teens’ driving practices, and step in if need be.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.