July 22, 2018 | ° F

Young adult distracted driving leads to accidents, death


Scene after scene of potentially fatal car crashes are shown in the recently released AAA foundation video, which depicts several teenagers driving and their actions seconds before getting into car accidents. While watching the video, you can’t help but bang your head against the table at the stupidity of these teenagers. But then you realize any of these young adults could be your friend, or a student here at Rutgers. Although most of these young drivers are texting on the road prior to their accidents, which everyone knows is a big no-no, some are talking to friends, eating food or putting on makeup. These are all things we as young drivers have done a million times before, but it has to stop, for our own safety and for the safety of the other drivers on the road.

The video is the end product of 1,700 teenage drivers around the country that were recorded by dash cams while driving, with the left side of the video showing the oncoming road and the right side showing the driver. Of the teens that got into car accidents, 58 percent of them were caused by distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had previously estimated that distraction was the cause of 14 percent of young adult car crashes, and as we can see, they were drastically wrong. Teens that were texting had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 seconds. Imagine closing your eyes and counting to four while driving at any given point. Of course put in that context, it seems crazy, but that is what driving with distractions is like.

A commonality shared between all of the teenagers that got into accidents in the video was the tendency to over compensate for their error in driving. For example, they would usually veer to the right side, going off the road. As a result, the driver would turn their steering wheel quickly to the left to make up for drifting off the road, and this would cause them to either spin, hit oncoming traffic or run off the road on the left side. In the moment of panic, the young adults made the worse decision possible because they are not experienced drivers. In addition, the setting for many of the accidents shown in the video is a backcountry road or a double line road with not many cars around. It often seems that teenagers are more willing to take driving risks on less crowded roads because they think they are unlikely to hit another vehicle. Teenagers should never be taking driving risks because driving a car is extremely risky as it is, no matter what type of road they drive on, and it’s completely selfish to take these risks. Like drunk driving, it seems that the people that come out of the fatal accidents alive are the people that caused it, while the responsible drivers end up dead.

Distracted driving is what gives teenagers a bad reputation on the road. Young adults should be especially cautious while driving because they are new drivers and don’t have that much experience. According to teendriversource.org, 963,000 teen drivers nationally were involved in police-reported motor vehicle crashes in 2013. This resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths, according to the same source. There is no reason why so many people should be dying as a result of having teenagers on the road. Despite what many believe, driving is a privilege, not a right. Teenagers are all too willing to take advantage of the freedom that driving gives them without considering the consequences of their actions while on the road.

I know that we’ve all been in situations where we are passengers in a car with a distracted driver, probably one of our friends. It might seem awkward to tell them to focus on driving, but it could save a life. Just think about the 2,800 people that die each year from teenage driving accidents. Do you want that to be you? If the driver is really your friend, they will listen to what your advice.

If I wasn’t being clear before, this is meant to be a lecture. While driving, adhere to the speed limit, avoid speaking with passengers if you can and don’t text, put on makeup, eat or listen to music too loudly, to better ensure the safety of yourself and everyone around you. Nothing is so urgent that you cannot wait until you’ve stopped the car. Pull over if it really is that urgent. These are small sacrifices to make, and I am sure you will be happy that you did. 

Courtney Han is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. Her column, “Fit Wit,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

Courtney Han

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