Tips for Teens: Handling Roadside Distractions on Spring Break

Spring break is an exciting annual event for many young people. They look forward to taking time off from the rigors of schoolwork to spend time with friends having fun in an exotic setting.

But this can also be a dangerous time for young people, especially when they drive to their destination, often accompanied by distractions such as passengers and loud music. Driving requires attention and awareness, along with the ability to make complex decisions and act on them quickly. For someone driving in an unfamiliar setting, this awareness is particularly important. Drivers in an unfamiliar setting can get distracted by:

  • perplexing roads, signs, and signals
  • getting lost or confused
  • looking at maps or driving directions
  • looking at the scenery

In this article, we will address the issue of how to handle roadside distractions when driving in an unfamiliar setting.“Roadside distractions” refers to any aspect of the environment that draws a motorist’s attention away from the task of driving. For example, a driver who is spending spring break in a beach town may face roadside distractions such as:

Heavy pedestrian traffic with pedestrians who may:

  • Dart in and out of traffic
  • Be over-excited or intoxicated
  • Be skimpily dressed
  • Include large groups of children
  • Be carrying several items, such as beach towels and toys

Other drivers who:

  • exceed the low speed limit
  • run red lights and stop signs
  • weave in and out of traffic
  • play loud music
  • call out from their vehicles
  • Other road users who are riding motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles and skateboards
  • Narrow roadways, closed roads, and detours
  • Noise and bright lights from nearby hotels, restaurants, bars and amusement parksDrivers who are faced with this bewildering array of lights, sound and movement must continually refocus their attention on their driving. This is particularly important for inexperienced drivers whose control of the vehicle may be somewhat tenuous; a crash could occur very quickly. The following tips will help:

Minimize distractions inside the vehicle:

  • Turn the stereo off
  • Ask passengers to quiet down
  • Don’t eat, drink or smoke
  • Turn your cell phone off
  • Ask a passenger to act as a navigator instead of looking at the map or directions yourself
Avoid stopping or turning suddenly:

  • Drive at or below the posted speed limit
  • Maintain an adequate following distance
  • Use your turn signal
  • Keep driving normally and turn around in a safe place if you miss your turn

Scan the road ahead and your mirrors for trouble:

  • Watch the road ahead while taking quick glances further ahead and in your mirrors
  • Don’t let yourself be distracted from scanning – while you’re staring at one thing, another hazard could develop outside of your range of vision

Ask yourself “What if…?”

  • What if that pedestrian steps into the street?
  • What if that bicyclist falls?
  • What if that traffic light changes suddenly?
  • What if that weaving driver is drunk?

Avoid careless, reckless, aggressive drivers and drivers who may be intoxicated:

  • Keep a safe distance from these vehicles
  • Avoid challenging these drivers with your vehicle, eye contact, or gestures

Remember, driving safely helps ensure a safe, relaxing spring break!