Distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic fatalities nationwide, killing roughly nine people every day. And while we know it’s illegal and unsafe, texting and phone use behind the wheel continues. We see it every day in the cars next to us when we’re out driving.

Anything can create a distraction in the car–a meal, other passengers, your GPS–but the CDC finds that texting is by far the most dangerous. Texting combines three dangerous factors–you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your attention away from driving. In the five seconds it takes you to type out a text, you travel the span of a football field if you’re going 55 MPH. An accident can happen in one second.

Teens most at risk

In the last decade, teens and young adults aged 16-24 have had the highest proportion of distracted driving related crashes. And despite tougher laws and publicity campaigns, a recent survey of 101,000 teens found that 40% of them admitted to texting or emailing at least once while driving in the previous 30 days. It also found that the older they were, the more like they were to engage in the behavior as 18-year-olds were texting more often than 15-year-olds.

The researchers believe the numbers of phone-using teens may be higher as the survey only asked about texting and emailing, not using other phone applications like Snapchat or Instagram.

 

Discourage the behavior

If you have a teenager or young adult in your household, there are steps you can take to discourage this risky driving behavior:

  • Remind them that Missouri law prohibits texting while driving for anyone under 21. The fine if they’re caught is $200.
  • Educate your teens about the dangers and risks of phone use while driving.
  • Model good behavior and practice safe driving behavior.
  • Install apps or devices that prohibit phone use while driving.
  • Offer monetary incentives for abiding by the rules.

 

Distracted driving is an entirely preventable public safety issue. No matter your age, put the phone away–we’ll all be safer.