Does your phone or car dashboard distract you while driving?

Teen and adult drivers are getting distracted and that can be dangerous on the road.
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The highest death rate on the roads in 13 years is haunting those who study statistics on traffic safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 38,680 people died in traffic crashes in 2020. This was the highest rate of fatal crashes since 2007. Those who teach driver safety say it’s not just new teen drivers who need to keep their attention on the road, but that their parents and other adults are also letting distractions get dangerous. Those can include smart phones that are illegal to use except hands-free on Tennessee roads.

Distractions can also be the fully functional dashboards of the latest vehicles that offer car data, driver assistance and infotainment all in one place.

Executive Director Brett Robinson of the American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association said, “It is important that you know how to set your vehicle’s features before you start driving and not try to make adjustments to your technologies while you’re driving.”

Robinson said you may need to go beyond your car dealer for guidance on fully utilizing all of the advanced technology on a car. When it comes to safety questions about the technology, you could ask a professional driving instructor.

Gathering in Knoxville this week for the ADTSEA’s 65th Annual Conference are around 200 driver instructors and other involved in the safety industry. This includes sponsors of high school students who have worked on safety messages for the their own peers. They focused strongly on telling teens to not drive distracted by their smart phones or other technology.

Francky Maemble and Park Mitchell worked with a team of other students to create Project Ignition at Urbana High School in Illinois. Maemble said their message included, “Buckle up and look ahead!”

Mitchell said he thinks the peer to peer interaction helps get the important safety message to sink in with other teens. “Driver safety is probably most important when you’re a teen because that’s the point when you’re not focusing on the safety part. So it’s our job to be sure people our age are doing that.”

Knoxville area driving school owner Greg Mangan at Drive 4 Life Academy said the teens themselves can create distractions when too many get into one car. “When a teenage driver puts two or three friends in the car, that’s when they are the most distracted.” Mangan also said parents of teen drivers probably need to brush up on safety themselves, “The teens often learn bad habits from their parents.”

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