We live in a world obsessed with multitasking—people are watching TV while texting their friends while updating their Facebook status while tweeting about the latest celebrity gossip. And some people will even multitask behind the wheel of a car—not real smart, and reeeaaally dangerous. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has even launched a Web site devoted to raising awareness about the problem of “distracted driving:” Distraction.gov.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity someone does while driving that could potentially distract them and raise the risk of crashing. Texting and talking on the phone definitely fall into this category, but so does drunk and drugged driving. DOT reports that younger, inexperienced drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Drugged Driving = Danger
Marijuana happens to be the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. That’s partly because the THC in marijuana can alter perception, attention, reaction time, judgment, and other faculties required for safe driving.
Hopefully, you would never drive under the influence of an illegal drug or alcohol—but that doesn’t mean other drivers are making the same positive choices. If you’ve got your eyes on your phone, you might miss something important right in front of you, like a stopped car or someone driving under the influence—weaving, speeding, crawling, or crossing the center line.
So do yourself, your passengers, and other travelers a favor: put your phone down while you’re driving and don’t get high and get behind the wheel.
Visit Distraction.gov for more facts and stats on distracted driving.
Read more NIDA information about drugged driving.
Many U.S. Government agencies have Web sites to share information and resources with the public. Some help you find services you need—for instance, the Motor Vehicle Administration in your state helps you understand how to get your driver’s license. The CDC site helps your parents know what vaccines to get before they travel internationally. Some agencies, like NASA or the Smithsonian Institution, have upped the “cool factor” and designed contests, stories, games, and puzzles to entertain younger Web visitors. Other Government Web sites, like NIDA’s, are geared to help teens and their families understand health issues from a science perspective. Two of our favorite sites (besides the Sara Bellum Blog and NIDA for Teens, of course!) include:
- Above the Influence offers teen-focused, informative, and accurate drug- and alcohol-related info, not to mention a cool logo and tons of ways to get involved in helping friends and family learn the facts.
- Distraction is also geared to young people, with info about distracted driving and why you should avoid it.
Many Government agencies are designing their outreach efforts to do more than talk at you—they want feedback like comments on blogs, contest entries, photos, and more. In fact, SBB is asking for your feedback right now! What Government Web sites do you like? What do you like about them? Do you use them for anything besides school projects? And do you ever share your opinions on these types of Web sites? To answer the questions, you can either write your response in the “Leave a Reply” box below, or send us a message. We read all of your comments and feedback. Don’t forget that you can respond to questions we’ve asked before. As always, we look forward to hearing from you!
In the past 5 years, Danny McCoy has told this story to thousands of teens: When he was 19 years old, he drove home from a fraternity party after a night of drinking. He fell asleep for only a few seconds. In those moments, he hit a utility pole, killing his 17-year-old passenger, Alexandra Everhart.
Danny feels the horror and guilt born of that night every day of his life. In a newspaper interview after one high school assembly, McCoy says, "I'm telling you all, you do not want to put that much pain and destruction in this world."
Unfortunately, this story is all too common. Teens who’ve been partying late, whose judgment has been impaired by drugs or alcohol, or who are just plain tired, decide to take the wheel. Every year, about 3,500 American teens die in car crashes, and 22% of drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes were drinking. Beyond those lives lost, countless more—those of their parents, siblings, and friends—are devastated as a result.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s also the month for high school proms, college admissions, and spring fever—all of which might make you and your friends eager to celebrate. However, teens are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol because their brains and bodies are still developing.
Danny McCoy can never bring Alexandra Everhart back. All he can do is tell his story and hope that it causes at least one person to make the responsible decision not to drive impaired.
Check out these four tips to avoid drinking and driving. Do you have other strategies? Tell us in comments.