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Distraction-free driving keeps everyone safe

Distraction-free driving keeps everyone safe

As teenagers, we often rush to get our driver’s licenses as a step towards our freedom. But we are not as experienced as adults and still do not take driving seriously. As we begin the new journey behind the wheel, we need to understand the importance of road rules and the consequences of not paying attention to them. Within these years of the rapid increase in the use of technology and other distractions, the risk of accidents for teen drivers has increased. Teenage drivers are more likely to be distracted and have more collisions mainly because they don’t take driving seriously, lack experience, and get distracted easily by cell phones and other technology.

There are many things that can cause distractions while driving, but one of the most common is using cell phones. For every driver on the road, this is quite risky. Is it really worth the danger that we face in order to respond to someone, share a picture, or browse an app?

Junior Harley Corey said, “Even what appears to not distract you, could be taking a heavy toll on your mental focus, if you split half of your attention on something else, that means you are only half paying attention to your road safety, and the safety of others.” Road safety is the first thing we should take care of while driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. This is not just about one person’s safety, but involves everyone on the road. Also on June 30, 2023, a new law took effect making it illegal to use cell phones manually while driving. Therefore, it’s essential to put cell phones out of sight or put them in “do not disturb” mode to help make the road safer for everyone.

Other than using cell phones, eating and drinking while driving can also be dangerous. Grabbing a water bottle or eating a sandwich can take your eyes off the road and can cause an accident or crash. When teens are getting late for school or any other place some teens use their driving time to eat lunch or breakfast taking the risk of costing a life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you’re 1.57 times more likely to be in a crash when eating while driving.

Junior Zaria Williams agrees. “It’s dangerous to eat and drink while the car is actively moving because you need your hands to steer. You never know, you might have to hit the brakes quickly because someone wasn’t following the rules of the road and if your hands are occupied, you’re screwed,” Williams said. Although it may not be illegal to eat or drink while driving, it is something that can pose a threat to your or anyone else’s life. Therefore, be wise and make your own decisions, considering the consequences.

In addition to cell phones, food, and drinks, talking with passengers or friends in the car can also be dangerous. Even though it may seem harmless, it distracts your attention away from driving and can divert it to conversations and other things, leading to serious accidents or injuries. NHTSA research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teenagers in the car. Hence, you should consider small details before driving as small details can have large consequences, affecting everyone’s safety on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 2608 individuals lost their lives in accidents involving teenage drivers 2021. Distracted driving can have serious and long-lasting consequences for anyone involved. From minor injury to death, it is extremely dangerous to take your attention off the road. Every time you take a risk, you not only put your life at risk but also endanger the lives of other people on the road.

It is important that teens not just be mindful of safety, but mindful of the law. In response to problems with distracted driving, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law House Bills 4250, 4251, and 4252 in June 2023.

House Bill 4250 expands existing distracted driving laws beyond texting and driving to include watching and recording videos, engaging in social media, browsing the internet, and entering GPS coordinates into a phone or navigational system.

House Bill 4251 makes drivers who put themselves and others in danger by engaging in distracted driving accountable by changing the law for commercial vehicles, assigning driving record points against one’s license, and requiring driver improvement courses.

House Bill 4252 requires the state to evaluate the effectiveness of HB4250 and HB4251 3.5 years after the laws take effect. Other states have seen immediate and significant drops in accidents related to distracted driving after similar bills were passed. According to the Office of the Governor, neighboring state Ohio saw an immediate 9% reduction in distracted driving in the first month alone.

When asked about advice for teens, senior and WHS SADD member Heidi Klindt said, “Tell people you’re driving and the better you get to your location the better chance you have of being able to answer your phone when you get there.”

As teenagers, we should be mindful of even small details since we are not very experienced and lack skills. No matter what, we should always prioritize safety and keep our focus on the road. By giving attention to these small details, we can create a safer road environment for everyone and prevent accidents and tragedies. We must take responsibility for our actions and be mindful of the consequences.


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