What do you think is the most dangerous thing Americans do each day?

Based on national statistics, approximately 30,000 people will die in vehicular accidents this year, with many of those accidents involving teenage drivers. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death amongst 15-20 year olds. [Citation: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/accidental-injury.htm]

 

Driving an automobile, like many of the tasks we do daily but overlook the complexity, is the building of a behavior based on numerous smaller skills interwoven to allow for properly controlling an object that allows for action far beyond what we could accomplish without. Think of all the things you use your car to do. Now think of all the things you do while actively driving your car. That you can come up with a list of things you can do while driving is a direct reflection  of driving becoming habit.

 

Now think back about when you first learned to drive. The power within the pressure of the accelerator, or the brakes, might have created a herky-jerky driving style for you at first - and only exacerbated by those that learned to drive on a manual transmission. And as driving became more familiar you were able to focus on other parts of the experience: music, conversation, the sounds the car itself makes.

 

The key features to control the vehicle have not changed since cars were first introduced to the road, but today’s drivers approach the activity with far more distraction than ever before. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although specific to teen drivers has two components of their “5 to Drive” addressing clear attention to the task of driving, while the other three are legal requirements (and one that deeply impairs attentiveness). Here’s the list:

  • No cell phones while driving

  • No extra passengers

  • No speeding

  • No alcohol

  • No driving or riding without a seat belt

Teen drivers more likely than any other group to be involved in an accident. As much as we embrace and encourage families to use the “5 to Drive” and have conversations concerning practices of safe driving, we also must remember that we are always a role model for anyone who is driving in our vehicle, and that learning starts through observation. Obviously, the 5 to drive will not apply on all rules - you are certainly going to have passengers - but see how you do with the other four and embrace the behavior you want to see in those around you.