When most people think of distracted driving, cell phone use and texting are the first things that come to mind, but one of the biggest distractions is much less "high tech." It's actually passengers. When passengers are looked at officially as a distraction, much of the emphasis goes to teens or other young drivers new to the road. One study by an insurance company found that a teen who drove with just one passenger was twice as likely to get into a fatal accident, and if two or more teens were passengers, five times as many fatal accidents occurred. Many states, and other countries as well, have placed extra passenger restrictions on young drivers to help prevent them from becoming distracted on the road, and therefore not only a danger to those it their vehicle, but anyone else they are sharing the road with as well.
Young drivers are not the only ones who get distracted by passengers in their vehicle. One study from the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention revealed that overall one passenger increased the likelihood of a crash serious enough to cause hospitalization by nearly 60%, and if two or more passengers were in the car, those accident more than doubled.
How Passengers Distract Drivers
While talking to passengers in the car is not as dangerous as talking on a cell phone or texting, it is not without risk. While many passengers pay attention to the road with the driver and ask as another set of eyes, many are oblivious to the fact that the driver's concentration is supposed to be on the road. Spouses or adult friends may try to have serious discussions and make decisions while driving that may detract from the task at hand. They may try to show the driver things either inside or outside of the car. When small children are along for the ride they may argue with friends or siblings or even their driving parent. Even asking repeated questions, such as "are we there yet" can make the driving experience more stressful and increase the likelihood of a serious accident.
Know and Admit What Distracts You
While it may make you feel like "the bad guy" drivers need to be assertive when it comes to insisting on a distraction free, or at least a low level of distraction in their vehicle. If that means you need complete quiet during the drive, perhaps due to less than ideal road conditions, you should not be afraid to ask this of your passengers. For some, it could mean avoiding serious subjects, such as politics or making life choices. Children should be taught early that driving is a task that takes focus, and they can be assigned tasks and games that will help keep them from arguing with one another or distracting the driver. Whenever possible, another adult should sit with children to help keep them entertained so that the driver is not tasked with this responsibility on top of driving.
If you do have a teen that is driving, take time to talk to them about their own limits, and consider talking to any of their friends that may be riding with them as well.
If you or a loved one is in a serious car accident, determining whether the driver was distracted plays a big role in determining the level of the driver's liability. By reporting as many details about the accident as possible to the police and a personal injury attorney, a more accurate picture of what happened can be constructed and help to increase the chance of a fair personal injury settlement.