My son just wrote an article for his 10th grade journalism class about a couple on their way to plan a Disney wedding in Orlando - their long-held dream wedding - who were hit by a truck driver that just had to answer a text in the middle of a highway. She was killed and her family now speaks regularly about the dangers of texting and driving. My neighbor has a smart, pretty, 19 year-old daughter who is glued to her cell phone. It buzzes all through dinner, and although she won't necessarily answer it, she stares at it anxiously each time it starts vibrating. She hit another car while she was texting, destroying hers, but fortunately not hurting anyone. Ever tried to tell a teenager not to do something - the polar opposite results even when they know it's dangerous. I've watched my neighbor struggle over this with her youngest daughter who even after trashing her car, still would answer texts while driving. So her mom finally did what a lot of parents these days are doing - she bought her a standard car with five gears - that she cannot drive and text in at the same time. Distracted driving. Whether it's a baby crying in the backseat, a ringing cell phone, lunch, or a text that just must be answered, we've turned into a nation of ridiculously dangerous drivers. And teenagers, especially those new to driving, are the worst offenders. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cell phones have created a whole new form of distraction and are largely responsible for almost 6,000 highway deaths each year. I've been looking for plain language science to help explain to my teenage son, in the months before he starts to learn how to drive, and why distracted driving is so dangerous. I've found studies that say it's similar to drunk driving in that motor control is lessened making accidents more likely. I've found statistics on how many people have died. And I've found the heartbreaking stories like the one above. I also found a new NHTSA web site at www.distraction.gov which explains that there are three types of distracted driving according to the federal government: Visual — Taking your eyes off the road (texting, rubber necking to see what happened with an accident, reading an email or a book, studying, etc.) Manual — Taking your hands off the wheel (texting, fiddling with CDs and radios, calming a screaming baby, eating, etc.) Cognitive — Taking your mind off what you’re doing (talking on a cell phone, fighting, etc.) But I have not found a good explanation of the science of why distraction while driving is so dangerous. So I am opening this up to the scientists on this blog - how do you convince a 16 year-old who is just learning to drive that distracted driving can kill him and others - using science. All suggestions are welcome.
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