It’s 8:00 in the morning. Your son was supposed to be up thirty minutes ago. But three snoozes later and one panicked glance at the alarm has him leaping from the bed and into yesterday’s jeans in mere seconds. Forget breakfast. He sprints around the house collecting his algebra textbook, English paper, and car keys. And before your morning coffee has finished brewing, he’s stumbled out the door in miss-matched socks and a wrinkled shirt.
With the start of the school year inevitably comes rushed mornings and sleepy teenagers. And it’s no mystery that this combination can lead to disaster behind the wheel, especially for inexperienced drivers. Emotions like panic and anxiousness can distract you from giving your full attention to what’s happening on the road.
Teen driver crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for young people in America according to Impact Teen Drivers, and the majority of these auto accidents are caused by inexperience and distractions. That’s why the car accident injury attorneys at the Law Office of Dianne L. Sawaya LLC have created this three-part series on back to school driver safety. In our last post, we talked about ways you can help your teen develop safe driving habits. But teen drivers aren’t the only ones prone to car accidents—distracted driving affects everyone.
Common Driving Distractions
You might believe that your driving experience has made you an expert at multi-tasking behind the wheel. In fact, at any given moment of daylight across America, nearly 660,000 drivers are using their cell phone or electronic device while driving. But consider this: in 2013, approximately 424,000 people were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving. And that number is still on the rise.
What have we been doing instead of giving our full attention to the road? Common distractions include:
- Using a smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Grooming or applying makeup
- Talking to passengers
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or mp3 player
- Driving while emotionally distressed
- Driving under the influence
How to Avoid Distractions while Driving
As a general rule, if you cannot give the road your undivided attention because of another activity, it is a distraction. Here are a few tips to avoid many of the distractions listed above:
- Store loose items and possessions that could roll around in the car where you are not tempted to reach for them.
- Make adjustments before you take the car out of park. Set your GPS, find a radio station, adjust climate control, and get situated ahead of time.
- Finish grooming and applying makeup at home, not in the car. If you’re speeding to make it to school or work on schedule, set your alarm for an earlier time.
- If possible, eat meals or snacks before you get behind the wheel.
- Put your phone somewhere you won’t be tempted to reach for it.
- If you absolutely have to make or answer a phone call, pull over and stop your vehicle in a safe place.
Don’t underestimate the value of being a good passenger! Help the driver by being the navigator or keeping them from touching their phone.
As a parent, it is critical that you discourage your teen from using their phone while driving. One of the best ways to do this is by setting a good example. Text messages can wait. Show your children that you make a commitment to their safety—and your own—by driving distraction-free.
Colorado Distracted Driving Laws
In the state of Colorado, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a phone while driving. The only exceptions to this law are:
- Reporting a fire
- Reporting a traffic accident in which one or more injuries are apparent
- Reporting a serious road hazard
- Reporting a medical or hazardous materials emergency
- Reporting a person who is driving in a reckless, careless, or otherwise unsafe manner
In any of these situations, it is still advised to pull over to a safe place to make the call if you can.
Colorado’s texting law prohibits drivers of all ages from texting and driving except in emergency situations. This is a “primary law”, meaning an officer can pull you over for the offense without having to witness any other violation. In order to be convicted, a law enforcement officer must see you texting and driving. Your first offense involves a $50 fine and $6 surcharge; your second offense involves a $100 fine and $6 surcharge.
Distracted Driving—Just Don’t Do It!
No text or phone call is worth your life. The car accident attorneys at the Law Office of Dianne L. Sawaya LLC urge you to follow these tips to prevent distracted driving. No one wants to be in a car accident that leaves them with life-changing injuries or takes the life of their loved one. Avoiding distractions is a group effort, so hold each other accountable!