Generally, I’m not a fan of efforts to reduce distracted driving among teens by scaring the crap out of them. There are all sorts of stats that clearly portray the dangers of distracted driving: last year, it was responsible for nearly 600,000 deaths; it is the number one killer of teenagers; and it’s just as dangerous as driving while drunk. But if teens today are a fraction as stubborn as I was as a teenager, listing statistics to kids won’t have a lasting effect.
In my view, teenagers are most likely to kick the distracted driving habit if they come to the decision on their own. On Friday, Consumer Reports wrote about a distracted driving simulator being tested in the northeast. Massachusetts-based Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation developed the technology to show teenagers how dangerous texting, typing, and talking can be for a driver (see the video below). Participants are then invited to participate in additional tests online at DistractU.com.
I gave the online test a try and was surprised by how difficult it was. For the first exercise, a participant is asked to count how many times a team of people passes a ball between them, with additional distractions to keep the participant on his toes. After the video is over, the narrator informs reveals that someone in a bear costume danced across the screen during the exercise. The point? While distracted, a driver might be able to perform basic functions on the road. But they aren’t equipped to drive and monitor unexpected developments simultaneously.
If you’re a parent living in the northeast with a stubborn teenager, try to seek out the simulators and see if your son or daughter can handle distracted driving. And definitely ask your kids to take the online test, which is peppered with information and stats about dangerous driving.
And just in case, though we hope you never have to use it, print out our car accident check list and place it in your teenager’s glove box.