by Tyler Anderson, Byrnes HEC Health Educator
According to a recent article published in Time Magazine, the average attention span of an adult is 8 seconds. That’s about how long it takes to buckle your seatbelt before even accelerating out of your driveway. The fact is that we have issues staying focused at any task let alone driving a car. Now imagine the attention span of a teen, practically glued to their cell phone, getting into the driver’s seat.
It wasn’t until the start of my senior year of high school that I was able to afford my own car. I was glad to be able to too; senior year, unlimited freedom and that feeling of invincibility. All I could hear was: “Tyler take me here!” or “Can I get a ride?” What I should have heard was the voice of my mom and dad telling me to just be smart.
In November of my senior year I was on my way to meet a girl, and I had pulled out of a back alley to get on the main road when I made a mistake. That same mistake many of us have made. I sent a text that said “Pulling Up Now.” In the 4.6 seconds it took to type that message I had side swiped a brand new Chevy Trailblazer. My car was instantly totaled as the damage super ceded my cars worth. So in three months I went from invincible to totally wrecked thanks to a 4.6 second text message.
After that I became too expensive for my families insurance company so I was dropped from that. Since I couldn’t get to work on my own, there was no money for a new car. It wasn’t until graduation week that I climbed out of the hole I put myself in. For anybody that has ever sought their own insurance they can empathize with that being the worst part, especially for a 16 year old who has already totaled his first car.
It wasn’t easy to convince my parents that I was capable of driving again. I took private instruction from driving schools beyond what my high school had offered. I signed up for several “Don’t Text and Drive” pledges and for the first year after my accident I locked my phone in my glove box. It was a painful lesson that I had to learn but an ever important one. Had it not been for that mistake I may not be the safe driver I am today.
My advice to any parent would be to remind your kids that multi-tasking is a myth. You may drive 9 times out of 10 without an incident but what might happen that one time. Do you lose your freedom as high school senior or do you lose something much more precious?
There are several ways to prevent distracted driving. Plan ahead and ensure any communication you need to do is done before getting in the driver’s seat and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. There are also apps you can download to disable your phone while you drive, such as AT&T Drive Mode or Drive Off. It is also important to be a good passenger when you are not in the driver’s seat. This means acting as an extra set of eyes and encouraging safe driving practices.
While this was meant to provide tips for helping with distracted driving in teens, I hope this is also a reminder to you as a parent that we must all be safe when we are behind the wheel!