A Teen Drivers Guide To Increased Awareness

Alexis C

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For a new teenage driver, that first drive gives you a sense of freedom you have never had before.  Being alone in the car, driving solo brings you new thrill and a new sense of responsibility.  Beginning to drive is a milestone in a kids life where they actually feel like an adult. This was the exact feeling that I had the first time I drove a car.  I felt like I was one step closer to becoming the person I wanted to be-a responsible adult.  As teenagers, we watch our role models around us to see how they drive and then we inevitably mirror their behaviors in our own driving.  For example, not too long before I started driving, I was with a friend of mine who was a “reckless driver”.  This friend would speed while constantly interacting with me while I was playing the music off of their phone.  Then when they were stopped at a light or stop sign they would ask for their phone so they could check it for messages or other unnecessary reasons.  Before, I did not realize that this was a dangerous behavior.  This behavior is seen in adults too, which reinforces and normalizes the behavior. Anytime a teenager sees an adult pick up the phone while they are in the vehicle to text, call, or do anything on their phone, a little switch goes off in their brain that says “Oh we can do that too!”  Many states have implemented laws that prohibit phone use while driving.  Yet so many people choose to use their phones despite that.  All people have a justification for their phone use whether it’s saying “It was something very important that I had to do” or “I was at a stop sign/red light so that makes it okay because I am not driving at the stop.”  These errors in judgement are an example of poor driving behaviors and could easily be passed on to new drivers.  To make a real impact on teenage driving we as a society need to start looking at the behaviors that influence teens to partake in these dangerous activities.  In the example with the friend who drove recklessly, we need to emphasize the importance of not having electronics on while driving or find a way to more heavily enforce it.  On Apple iPhones you can find a setting that turns off all of your notifications when you’re driving.  If activated this feature is incredibly useful. When I first started driving I remember making it a priority to turn it on every time I got into my car, but as time passed it became easier to forget. By forgetting to turn off my notifications with this feature, my phone became a dangerous distraction and temptation for me to mess with. With instantaneous access to many forms of technology and social media, teenagers these days are constantly worried about who is contacting them. Feeling the need to be connected in this way and to respond immediately is a huge factor in kid’s lives.  If our society began to focus on these bad habit on all offenders, we would have the opportunity to decrease the number of life-threatening accidents caused by phone usage per year.  It’s a fact that children learn behavior from watching others. So, to help guide new beginner drivers away from these distractions we also need to address the experienced drivers who are constantly accessing their phones.  The goal should be for everyone to drive on our roads with 100% attention on the road ahead.