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Summer Health and Safety

Why This Can Be the Generation That Ends Distracted Driving

Photo: Courtesy of Damir Kopezhanov

In 2009, distracted driving was called a “national epidemic.” Since then, significant resources have been devoted to reducing distracted driving.

Despite these efforts, about 3,200 people still die and an additional 400,000 people are injured each year because of distracted driving. Studies indicate about 45-50 percent of people will read texts while driving, and the percentage who do so increased for most age groups from 2016 to 2017.

Shifting the conversation

It is extremely difficult to convince a driver who frequently texts while driving, and has not yet been in a crash, that their behavior is dangerous. Typically, a person needs to see adverse consequences of their actions to really have effective self-evaluation and behavior change.

In a recent study, more than 90 percent of respondents said they believe distracted driving is the most serious threat to our safety on the roads, but many of us continue to drive distracted. So, while we believe distracted driving is dangerous when others do it, we don’t feel the same when we drive distracted ourselves.

Ask adults about distracted driving and they will say it is “dangerous.” Ask teens and they say it is “disrespectful.” Adults tend to describe the situation, whereas teens describe the driver’s conduct. Teens and adults both agree that respect includes treating others the way we want to be treated, or the “golden rule.”

Interestingly, the majority of people who drive distracted also agree that doing so while sharing the road with others is disrespectful. That is the case even if the driver has never been in a crash while driving distracted.

When presented with the paradox that they believe they are respectful of others, and their distracted driving behaviors, most will commit to changing driving behaviors. This approach avoids confronting people who have “successfully” texted while driving about whether their driving is or is not dangerous.

Our children are correct when they say distracted driving is disrespectful. Changing our culture so distracted driving is not socially acceptable will require all of us, including moms and dads, to give up our driving distractions. Respect for others shouldn’t end when you get behind the wheel of our car.

Joel Feldman, Esq., M.S., Founder, EndDD.org, [email protected]

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