For years, texting and driving has been touted as one of the most dangerous habits for teen drivers. But according to a study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), teens are more likely to take part in a new destructive habit, apping and driving
As you may have guessed, teens who "app and drive" use phone apps while behind the wheel. And while 27 percent of teens admit to texting and driving, two out of every three teens—or 68 percent—say they use apps while driving.
"Teens have been inundated with messages about the dangers of texting while driving over the past several years,” says William Horrey, PhD, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Research Institute for Safety. “And while this message is still vitally important, texting is not the only danger popping up on their smartphone that needs to be addressed."
More than Pokémon Go
It goes without saying that playing games like Pokémon Go or checking your social media while driving is less than safe. But apps like Google Maps can still put drivers at risk. After all, searching your music app for a song or looking up a destination requires a person to take their eyes off the road.
According to the study, 41 percent of teens admit that navigation apps can be dangerous. Yet, 58 percent use them while driving anyway. Similarly, 64 percent of teens view music apps as distracting, but 46 percent still use them.
"While navigation and music apps may seem harmless, how teens interact with them can be distracting as any behavior that takes your eyes and focus off the road, even for mere seconds, can impair your ability to react to hazards and other vehicles," Horrey says.
In truth, distracted driving goes beyond just texting or using an app while on the road. Listening to music (with or without an app), talking to passengers, and eating all fall under the umbrella of driving while distracted.
And while people of all ages are guilty of distracted driving, younger drivers seem more prone to becoming distracted. According to distraction.gov, 10 percent of drivers 15 to 19 that were involved in fatal crashes were distracted during the accident.
Consequences of Driving while Distracted
There's no question that distracted driving can be deadly. While the emphasis in the past few years has been on texting and driving, the consequences of using an app can be just as severe. In 2014 alone, over 3,000 people died in accidents tied to distracted driving.
Distracted driving is not only dangerous, it can be expensive. For one, drivers who have been in a distracted driving accident usually see a spike in their car insurance premiums. On top of that, depending on your state's laws, you can get pulled over for a number of reasons related to distracted driving.
Texting and driving is already illegal in 44 states. And in New Jersey—where officials cited driving inattention as the top cause for fatal accidents in 2014—all forms of distracted driving may soon carry a penalty.
A recent article from Nj.com states that drivers who engage in any of the following behaviors would have to pay a fine if the proposed bill passes:
- Read or use electronic devices
First time offenders would face charges of $200 to $400. This jumps up to $400 to $600 for a second offense. Those who get caught a third time would have to pay an even larger fee. They'd also receive motor vehicle points and risk getting their license suspended up to 90 days.
Safety Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
The Liberty Mutual and SADD study also used implicit association testing to uncover how teens felt on a "gut-level" about apps and driving. They did this by having teens associate words like "distracting" and "fun" with various driving scenarios.
The study found that 95 percent of teens know it's dangerous to "app and drive." Still, 80 percent fundamentally believe using an app while driving is "not distracting."
"Ultimately, while teens often say all the right things, they implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe, not a stressor or a distraction behind the wheel," Horrey says.
So how do you prevent driving inattention if teens know using an app is dangerous, but aren't associating the danger implicitly? While these aren’t fool-proof methods, here are a few suggestions to try to limit driving inattention:
Program Your Apps Beforehand
For navigation apps, plug in your destination before you start driving. You may even want to look over the directions before you take off. That way there aren't any surprises once you're on the road.
If you're using an app to listen to music, try creating a playlist ahead of time. This will hopefully mean you won't be searching for your favorite songs mid-drive.
Use Apps to Fight Apps
Funnily enough, one of the best ways a driver can stop using an app while driving could involve using an app. Apps that prevent distracted driving do everything from block your text messages and phone calls to let your contacts know that you're driving.
Here are a few app suggestions from dmv.org:
- Drive Beehive
- AT&T DriveMode
Put Your Phone Away
Before you start on your journey, hide your phone. If you can't see or reach your phone, you won't be able to get distracted. Easy enough, but it may be hard to break the habit of always having your mobile device in easy reach.
Talk to Your Teen
It may seem like your teen isn't listening to anything you say, but it's important for parents to discuss the dangers of distracted driving with their kids.
Horrey says, "When it comes to changing teen’s behavior on the road, it’s essential for parents to realize the important role that they play."