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| May 24, 2017

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How Passengers Can Help End Distracted Driving

teen girl texting while driving
Jenna Murrell

Ever heard of a DT? Hint: it’s similar to a DD.

It’s a designator texter. Mad responsibility.

They co-pilot your phone while you handle the road.

Swipe, type, tweet, text, post, down and upload.

It’s from Honda’s latest driver safety awareness campaign featuring an entertaining rap video about the true responsibilities of shotgun riders. Whether you think it’s corny, funny, dumb or brilliant, it’s an important message aimed at young drivers.

While drivers should always commit to safe driving habits once they’re behind the wheel, passengers also share a large portion of this responsibility.

Distracted driving claims thousands of lives a year, and despite some states passing laws forbidding cell phone use the numbers are rising. And while 16 to 24-year-olds are the most likely to interact with their phones, distracted driving is on the rise for all age groups, even those 70 and older, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So to wrap up Distracted Driving Awareness Month and move into May’s Global Youth Traffic Safety Awareness month, let’s take a look at how backseat drivers can help encourage safe driving.

The “Designated Texter”

As Honda’s rap parody nods to the successful designated driver campaigns, car safety enthusiasts should hope “the designated texter” takes off as well. Everyone knows the shotgun seat is automatically DJ, but they should also offer to send a text, answer a phone call or handle the GPS. Anytime the driver reaches for their phone (or whatever else they may need to use while diving), offer to do it for them.

Speak Up When Necessary

Most of the time, passengers know and have a friendly relationship with the driver. So don’t be afraid to say “let me finish that text for you” or even asking if they could wait till after arriving. While getting in a full-fledged argument will just become a verbal distraction, kindly speaking up and offering to help will keep all people in the car safe.

If that doesn’t work, try using the local laws to your advantage.

“Though we have laws banning mobile device use, people still use driving as an opportunity to text, talk and scroll through social media,” Scott Liljegren, a Temecula car accident attorney with the Liljegren Law Group said. “If a person involved in an accident is caught even holding their phone, they may be at fault.”

No driver wants a ticket or to cause an accident.

Ride share drivers, however, has made driving with a stranger more common. But remember, they are a professional driver and should be following the laws of the road. Ask them to stop using their phone and if they persist, report them through the ride share app.

Don’t Be the Distraction

While smartphones pushed the dangers of distracted driving to the forefront of driver safety in the past decade, it’s not a new phenomenon. Eating in the car, putting on makeup and even talking to passengers are all forms of distracted driving. And while harder to nail down statistics for accidents caused by these more “normal” distractions, they are responsible for many.  

Of course, always driving alone is no practical solution- in fact, carpooling is encouraged from an environmental standpoint. Rather, passengers should understand the driver needs to be able to focus on the road for everyone’s safety (including your own).

Some ways to minimize passenger-related distractions include: keeping hands in front of you while talking, not asking the driver to look for your destination or something on your phone and not turning the music up too loud.

However, one of the most important acts an older passenger can do is help with children in the car. Young children and infants can be four and eight times more distracting for drivers than adults, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Take the worry off the driver by helping out with the younger passengers sitting in the back.

Today, passengers are just as involved in safe driving as the drivers. So be the designated texter…and designated phone carrier, DJ and car babysitter.

If you’re a parent looking for ways to help teach your new drivers about safety, visit Parent & Teen Driver Safety Resources. 

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