Ditch the Distractions and Drive Safely
by Dr. Robert Marcus
Obtaining a driver’s license has become a rite of passage for teenagers living in the United States. Starting during infancy, children become infatuated with driving. Whether it’s their first pair of pink and blue plastic keys or their convertible car for Barbie and Ken, children grow up dreaming of the day when they can turn in their Fisher-Price license plates and experience the freedom of life on the real road. However, with so many distractions facing teens today, it’s important to teach children safety before they open the driver’s side door for the first time.
As the Medical Director at Northern Westchester Hospital’s Emergency Department I have seen many cases that involve distracted drivers. In fact, driver distractions have become the leading cause of vehicular accidents in the United States.
Motor vehicle accidents are commonly seen in our emergency department, and distraction clearly plays a role.
Although laws have been passed to ban certain distractions, illegal cell phone use, eating, drinking and even personal grooming contribute to these accidents each day. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80% of crashes involve some form of driver distraction. In fact, nearly 6,000 teenagers, between the ages of 16 and 19, are killed in car crashes nationwide. With millions of new drivers taking the wheel each year, I urge parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of distractions.
Younger drivers, by nature, are inexperienced behind the wheel. Adding any one of a number of distractions to the mix will certainly impact response time in an emergency. Most new drivers don’t realize how dangerous car accidents can be – they can be lethal to themselves and others.
Teaching your children about the dangers of driving distractions can be vital to their safety and your peace of mind.
- Have your teens silence their cell phones before getting in the car
- Tell them that their obligation as a driver is to “just drive,” and nothing else
- Talk to them about the statistics of crashes involving driver distractions
- Take a defensive driving course with them so they know what to do in an emergency situation
Driving a car is a complex physical and mental operation that requires your new driver to be extremely attentive.
If your child is in an accident and you’re concerned about serious injury, care is available in the emergency department 24 hours a day. NWH has a new state-of-the-art Emergency Department equipped to handle these situations when they do occur, including the very latest in CT and Radiography (X-Ray) technology.
For less serious injuries or to seek advice, I recommend contacting your family practitioner.
Before replacing your children’s toy keys for real ones, make sure they know that driving is a privilege and a responsibility. Talk to them about the statistics, the likelihood of unexpected situations, the danger of distractions, and make sure they feel comfortable seeking medical attention if an accident does occur.
Editor’s Note: Robert Marcus, MD, is Chief of Emergency Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital