Staying safe on the road this summer

It's summer and for many young people that means a carefree break and roadtrips with friends. But it may also mean some dangerous distractions for the drivers.

The US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes a spike in car crashes amongst teen drivers and passengers in the summer months. And in 2011, 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in a fatal crash were reportedly distracted at the time.

Texting, eating and applying make-up behind the wheel are just some of the dangerous driving behaviours the NHTSA is flagging up with young drivers.

New research from the NHTSA found drivers were more than three times more likely to get into a car crash while reaching for an object in the car, and 23 times more likely while texting.

With the US Department of Transportation saying that sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the NHTSA warns that at 44 mph, that's the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field blind.

Young drivers are being urged to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road to ensure they and their passengers arrive at their destination safely.

The NHTSA has compiled this helpful checklist for young drivers to keep them focused:

  • Consciously make a decision each and every time you get behind the wheel to make all other activities, passengers and priorities secondary to driving
  • Before you start your car: Put on any accessories you may need, such as sunglasses or BluetoothTM ear pieces; Adjust seats, head rests, vehicle controls and mirrors; Fasten your safety belt; Move all reading material away from easy reach; Pre-load CDs or mp3 playlists and adjust volume level so your music does not mask the sounds of emergency sirens
  • Enter an address in the navigation system before you depart or review maps and written directions before you drive.
  • Stop your vehicle — in a safe area — any time there is a distraction that needs your attention, such as retrieving items, having an involved discussion, reading, smoking, or disciplining a child
  • Do not eat or drink while driving
  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Driving is not the time to apply makeup, groom, polish your nails, or change clothing

"For young drivers — or any driver, for that matter — their first priority is the safe operation of their car or truck which means eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," said Auto Alliance Vice President of Safety Robert Strassburger.