Tips For Teens to Avoid Distracted Driving

If teens didn’t need another reason not to text and drive, police across the region will crack down on distracted drivers in April as part of national Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The California Highway Patrol, state Office of Traffic Safety and more than 200 local law enforcement agencies statewide will be out in force, ticketing drivers caught texting, holding cell phones to their heads, or driving while appearing distracted in any way.

The federal government reports that about 3,300 people died nationwide in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2011. Further, 18 percent of all injury car accidents in 2010 were attributed to distracted driving.

Law enforcement officials say that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to have an accident because of distracted driving. For a driver of any age, using a cell phone behind the wheel reduces brain functions needed for safe driving by up to 37 percent.

If that weren’t sobering enough, teens in California have a financial incentive to put down their phones while driving: The fine for a first-time texting or hand-held cell phone violation is $159, and subsequent tickets cost $279.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, about 57,000 people statewide received tickets for distracted driving in April 2012 alone. Almost 450,000 people received tickets statewide in 2012.

Here are some tips from the Office of Transportation Safety to help motorists of all ages prevent distracted driving:

• Turn off your phone and/or put it out of reach while driving

• Include in your outgoing message that you can’t answer while you are driving

• Don’t call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving

• Adjust controls and set your song playlist before you set out on the road

• Stay alert and keep your mind on the task of driving – often after a long day at school or a not-so-restful night’s sleep, people’s minds can wander when behind the wheel. If you find yourself daydreaming, clear your head and focus on the road.

• No eating or drinking while driving

• No grooming

• No reading

• No watching videos

• If something falls to the floor, pull over before trying to reach it.

• Try not to get too involved with passengers

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Bad Weather Driving Tips for Teens

The term “joy ride” does not apply when it’s pouring and the wind is gusting. The best strategy for driving in bad weather is to avoid it. But if going out is necessary or you get caught in bad conditions once you’re already on the road, follow these safe driving tips:

  • Ensure your headlights are on. Many states require drivers to keep their headlights on if windshield wipers are on.
  • Slow down. Braking takes longer on slippery roads: The slower you go, the easier it will be for you to maintain control and stop your vehicle.
  • Increase your following distance behind other cars. This will give you more time to stop safely.
  • Make sure your car is prepared for the conditions (check your battery, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, windshield wipers, headlights and tires).
  • Use caution near intersections. Never assume that because you have the green light or the right of way that the intersection will be clear. Always scan ahead to spot potential hazards.
  • Stay in one lane as much as possible, and avoid unnecessary lane changes.
  • Keep two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road at all times.

 

Navigating rainy roads
Roads are dirty places. Between tires stirring up gravel and engines dripping oil and other fluids, a lot of oily and slick substances build up on roads. That’s why roads are at their slickest almost immediately after it starts raining. The water brings those oils to the surface, making it sneakily slick.

If you get caught in a slick situation and your car starts gliding or hydroplaning, don’t panic or slam on the brakes. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, lift your foot off the accelerator, and let the vehicle coast (making sure not to turn the steering wheel) until you feel your vehicle get traction again.

To prevent hydroplaning:

  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated and have significant tread
  • Look for standing or running water and avoid it (if you can)
  • Go easy around turns
  • Keep your speed down: speed should match conditions

Be aware of thunderstorm warnings. If a thunderstorm starts while you’re driving and visibility is poor, pull over and wait it out. Don’t run the risk of being struck by lightning: Stay in your car and pull off the roadway into a parking lot if possible.

Fuzzy Fog

Fog can reduce visibility to less than ¼ mile. Fog can also trick you into thinking you’re going slower than you really are, so keep the speed down. When you can’t see far ahead, it’s hard to see brake lights or traffic signs until you’re almost upon them. And just because you can’t see doesn’t mean that your high beams will improve visibility. In fact, high beams reduce visibility in fog. If your car has fog lamps, use them.

BRRRaving snow and ice

Driving a car is never “easy,” but this is especially true in wintry weather. To hone your skills, ask someone with winter driving experience to take you to a vacant parking lot where you can practice driving, turning, and stopping in the snow.

If you must travel, keep your car gassed up so that the fuel lines don’t freeze. Clear snow completely off the entire car (including the roof), remembering to sweep the tail lights and headlights. Watch out for slow-moving vehicles like snowplows and sand trucks. Try not to get too close: the last thing you need in a snowstorm is a windshield full of sand. Also try to avoid passing these vehicles.

Put together a car emergency kit that contains:

  • an ice scraper and a snow brush
  • a bag of sand, salt or cat litter for traction if you get stuck in snow
  • emergency warning flares or triangles
  • blankets
  • gloves or mittens
  • a flashlight and batteries
  • a first-aid kit
  • booster cables
  • nonperishable snack foods
  • a candle and matches
  • a cup in case you need to melt snow for water

If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and call for assistance. Run the heater occasionally to keep warm, but avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by ensuring your tailpipe isn’t stuffed or blocked with snow or other debris.

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Talk To Your Kids About the Risks of Texting While Driving

A new survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most teens admit that when they drive, they’re also texting and emailing.

The CDC surveyed 15,000 high school students about a variety of at risk behaviors. According to the survey, one in three high school students reported they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous 30 days.

A similar study, part of a project called Generation tXt, was presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston.

Thirty students ages 15-19 participated in the study. Using simulators, the teens drove under three conditions: 1) without a cell phone, 2) texting with the phone hidden so they had to look down to see texts and 3) texting with the phone in a position of their choice. The simulators recorded unintentional lane shifts, speeding, crashes/near crashes and other driving infractions.

Be sure to talk openly with your kids about the laws and risks tied to using their cell phone and texting while driving – officials say texting is the cause of about 16 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers. Moreover, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Discuss these safety tips with your teens and set a good example by practicing these guidelines too.

  • Most important, let your kids know they need to obey the law. Texting is prohibited in most states. For more information on the texting laws in California visit the DMV website.
  • Make it clear – never text and drive. Let your teen know he should turn off his cell phone before he drives if necessary, to avoid temptation.
  • Check with your phone service provider and its app store. There may be an app you can download that prohibits sending and receiving texts when a car is in motion.
  • Have your teen to pull off the road, away from traffic, to use a cell phone to talk, text or use the Internet.
  • Let your teen know that if they’re riding in a car with a driver who is texting, they need to ask him or her to stop or not ride with that person again. Teens may be afraid to speak up to their friends – stress the importance of their safety, and how that should be their biggest concern.
  • Make consequences. If you catch your teen texting while driving, take away his or her driving privileges. Setting those ground rules will make them less likely to do it.
  • Discuss the major risks of other driving distractions too, such as grooming, eating, drinking or trying to reach something that has fallen on the floor.

For more on this timely topic, please visit the DMV website.

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Tips for Teen Drivers

Do you have a new driver in your family? While it can be an exciting time, the latest teen driving statistics are pretty sobering.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although teen drivers (ages of 15 and 20) constitute almost 10 percent of all licensed drivers, they are involved in 12 percent of fatal motor vehicle-related crashes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a 16-year-old driver is more than 20 times as likely to have a motor vehicle crash than any other licensed driver. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 20-year olds?

Our CHOC Children’s Community Education Department has put together some safety tips for teen drivers, passengers and parents:

As a driver:
Wear your seat belt and insist that passengers also wear theirs. In California, a driver can still get a ticket if their passenger is not buckled up.
Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive. New drivers have elevated crash risks, especially for teens younger than 18.  Young drivers are at greater risk for injury and death because they lack judgment that comes with maturity and skill that comes with practice.
It is OK to tell passengers, “Please do not distract me while I’m driving.” Research shows that a teen’s risk of being involved in a crash increases greatly with each peer passenger in the car.
Pull over to use your cell phone or have your passenger answer it instead.

As a passenger:
Always wear your seat belt. As children get older, studies show their seat belt use rates tend to decline.  Parents tend to overestimate their teen’s seat belt use rate.
Respect your driver. Be helpful by reading directions, avoid talking loudly, or playing loud music.
It is OK to refuse to get in a car if you think it is an unsafe situation. Develop a code word.  Calling or texting your parent with a previously agreed-upon code word that signals trouble can help teens get out of an unsafe situation.

As a parent:
Get involved! Involved parents who set rules and monitor their teens’ driving behavior in a supportive way can lower their teens’ crash risk by half.
Know the law. Many youngsters are eager to know when they can get a driver’s license.  In California, they must be at least 16 years old to be eligible for a provisional driver’s license.  There are special restrictions and requirements for drivers under 18.  For more information, visit dmv.ca.gov
Be a good role model. Follow the rules of the road, do not talk or text on your phone while driving.  Make sure you’re not speeding or tailgating.
Create a Passenger Agreement with your teen. By setting clear expectations, a Passenger Agreement can help reinforce key behaviors that keep teens safe as passengers now and as drivers later.

For more information from CHOC’s Community Outreach experts, please visit http://www.choc.org/community/

Teens, Texting and Driving

Summer is officially here – meaning summer vacation for most kids and teens! If you have a teen at home, he or she may be driving around more often than when in school. Talk openly with your kids about their cell phone use and the dangers of texting or calling while driving.

Did you know that drivers using cell phones to send text messages are six times more likely to crash than those concentrating only on driving, according to a study in the journal Human Factors? Know the Risks! For must-read tips for your teens, please click here: http://www.choc.org/publications/articles.cfm?id=P00303&pub=KH&aid=595