Driving Distractions: The Dangers of In-Car Electronics

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Driving Distractions: The Dangers of In-Car Electronics

A car should not be the gateway to the internet. Look at the facts:

  • 11 percent percent of drivers talking on their phones at any given time, according to federal study (NYT)
  • 2,600 traffic deaths caused each year by drivers using cellphones, according to Harvard study (NYT)
  • 570,000 accidents leading to minor and serious injuries caused each year by cell phone distractions, according to same Harvard study (NYT)
  • 50 percent of Americans believe that texting behind the wheel should be punished at least as harshly as drunken driving (NYT/CBS Poll)

No Teen Needs In-Car Electronics and Mobile Connectivity
In 2007, AAA reported that 21 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result was expected to grow as much as 4 percent every year. With numbers like that, it’s a wonder that one of the biggest innovations showcased in the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas involves cars equipped with 10-inch high-definition screens that do anything from reading Tweets aloud to uploading photos and videos to browsing the Internet. The numbers on cell-phone distractions already tell a devastating story and many states have quickly moved to ban texting while driving. But as any parent—or for that matter, any auto insurance company—knows, teens are not only the most dangerous drivers but also the most distractible.

Pursuing Profit Over Safety
Car companies refer to these new offerings as “infotainment systems” and although the car companies stress there will be safety features—like voice controls or blocking Internet use when the car is moving, it’s going to be a real challenge for teens to keep their eyes on the road when a 3-d screen flashes information while they are driving. Nicholas A. Ashford, a professor of technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, clearly outlined the issue in the New York Times saying, “This is irresponsible at best and pernicious at worst. Unfortunately and sadly, it is a continuation of the pursuit of profit over safety—for both drivers and pedestrians.” Immediately. It could be a matter of life or death.

What Parents Can Do
Talk to your teens NOW: Tell them the facts. Tell them that distracted driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving. Tell them what their peers say:

  • 87 percent percent of teens think that driving and texting is dangerous.
  • 80 percent of teenage girls and 58 percent of teenage boys admitted to texting behind the wheel.
  • 65 precent have asked someone to stop driving dangerously. (The Allstate Foundation and National Organizations for Youth Safety, May 2009)

Set a good example. Throw your cell phone into the back seat. Don’t check your email at stoplights. If you must talk on the phone, use bluetooth. And never, ever text while driving.

Establish harsh consequences. If your teens practice distracted driving, take away the car keys. Immediately. It could be a matter of life or death.

Originally published on CommonSenseMedia