“Trying to focus on two things while you’re driving means you’re not focused on driving,” warns this graphic from distraction.gov, the official federal website about distracted driving. Upstate’s Trauma Center runs its own local program to prevent distracted driving by teens.
Cellphones, alcohol or drug use, passenger conversation and the car radio are the most common distractions for teen drivers, said Kim Nasby, RN, the Upstate Trauma Center’s injury prevention coordinator and an instructor in the Let’s Not Meet by Accident program.
She said motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for drivers age 15 to 19, and health care providers at Upstate want to help teens drive safely. Here is their advice:
Advice for teens
* Turn off your cellphone while driving, or at least put it on safe mode. If you must use your phone, pull off the road and park safely first.
* Refuse to ride in a car with a driver who is under the influence or alcohol or drugs. Create a backup plan with your parents or other caregivers, so you can count on a safe ride home.
* Limit your vehicle to one passenger if possible, and reduce conversation and movement while on the road.
* Do not encourage speeding or other negative behavior.
* Find your preferred radio station or playlist before your start the car, and stick with it until you reach your destination. Keep music at a low level – and no dancing while driving.
* Review maps and directions before you leave for an unfamiliar destination. If you need to consult a global positioning device, pull over first.
* Keep sunglasses in your car, to minimize the outside distraction of the sun. Reduce the glare from reflective surfaces such as glass and polished metal by purchasing sunglasses labeled “UV 40.”
Advice for parents of teens
* Lead by example. Don’t text and drive. Wear seat belts. Follow traffic laws.
* Explain the dangers of driving under the influence and make sure your teen knows the use of alcohol or drugs is non-negotiable.
* Consider a “no passengers” policy for new teen drivers.
* Look into smartphone applications that monitor a teen’s texting and phone calls while they are driving.
Let’s Not Meet by Accident is a free interactive injury prevention program designed by the Upstate Trauma Center. It’s offered once a month for up to 150 students from schools throughout Central New York. Learn more by calling 315-464-4779.
This article appears in the summer 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.
Hear a radio interview on this topic with Nasby and her colleague Jerome Morrison, RN, who both are part of the Let’s Not Meet by Accident program presentations.