Tips to Prevent Distracted Driving

Dana Orr – Senior Health Educator

It’s safe to say that we have all been distracted by someone or something at some point while driving.  Billboards.  Passengers.  Radio.  Electronic devices.  Food.  The list of distractions inside and outside of our vehicles is long.  These distractions make safe driving particularly difficult for teens.  The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed until age 25.  Most inexperienced drivers are within this age range; so they have to juggle attentive driving with this additional challenge.  There are almost 250,000 children under age 18 in Wake County.  Motor vehicle crashes top the list for children’s injuries in Wake County.  According to AAA experts, there were 95 teen fatalities in North Carolina last year, and more than 12,000 teens were injured in motor vehicle crashes.  Research shows that 22.2 percent of all crashes involving NC teens in 2016 were the result of distracted driving.  These are harsh statistics.

What can we do to make a difference? The first steps to prevention are education and awareness.  Recognizing that distracted driving is a public health issue and a preventable cause of injury and death is the first step.  Getting educated and knowing the resources that are available to help is equally as important.

#TagYourHalf. 57% of drivers would stop using their phones behind the wheel if asked by a friend.
57% of drivers would stop using their phones behind the wheel if asked by a friend.

The National Safety Council promotes a social approach for cultural change to make distracted driving more socially unacceptable. They ask that passengers speak up against cell phone use by offering to take the call or respond to the text or simply asking the driver not to use their phone.  The NSC also suggests people not to call or text when they know loved ones are driving or offer to call back later if someone answers while driving.  Similarly, the Harvard School of Public Health challenges us to apply the concept of not drinking alcohol and driving and use a designated driver that stays attentive and drives defensively.

This applies to parents, caregivers, and adults, in general, as well.  Adults have to be role models for youth. “Children look to their parents for a model of what is acceptable,” said Ray Bingham, research professor and head of UMTRI’s Young Driver Behavior and Injury Prevention Group. “Parents should know that every time they get behind the wheel with their child in the car they are providing a visible example that their child is likely to follow.”

Technology presents several pros and cons to the driving-distracted dilemma.  Intended to help, “hands-free devices offer no safety benefit when driving.  Hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distractions” according to the National Safety Council.



Types of Distracted Driving
In contrast, there are many phone apps that can help.  From tracking driving habits to blocking cell phone use, here are a few designed to encourage safe driving:

  • Time to Drive supports teen drivers during the practice period by setting driving goals and tracking habits.
  • AT&T’s Drive Mode will automatically reply to text messages that the driver is unavailable.
  • Sprint’s Drive First will send calls to voice mail, silence notifications, and auto-reply to texts.
  • Others There is no shortage of apps designed to help.  Find the right one for you and your teen driver.


Join NC Vision Zero’s initiative to realize their goal of eliminating roadway deaths and injuries in North Carolina. Take the pledge today.

VISION ZERO PLEDGE: I pledge to myself, my loved ones, and my community to:

  • Always wear a seat belt.
  • Follow the speed limit.
  • Only drive sober and alert. Only drive sober and alert.
  • Keep my eyes on the road, my hands on the wheel, and my mind on driving.

The Poe Center continues to be involved in education and promoting awareness, environmental changes, and policy enactment and enforcement.  Stay tuned for continued programs and projects on this topic!