Despite stricter laws and publicity campaigns, distracted driving is widely known to cause accidents and fatalities. In fact, approximately 3,500 people die each year in the United States as a result of distracted driving-related crashes.

A distraction for drivers can be anything–a meal, other passengers, the car’s radio. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), electronic distractions are the most dangerous. Sending a text from behind the wheel combines three dangerous factors–it takes your attention from driving, your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. If you send a text while traveling at 55 MPH, you cover the length of a football field in that five seconds. An accident can happen in less than one.

Teens and young adults most at risk

Historically, teens and young adults aged 16-24 have been the highest risk age group to text while driving. This age group also has the highest proportion of distracted driving-related crashes. Most know it’s dangerous and illegal to use their phone while driving and yet, they do it anyway. A recent survey of 101,000 teens found that 40% of them admitted to texting or emailing at least once while driving in the previous 30 days. And the older they are, the more likely the behavior–18-year-olds text while driving more often than 15-year-olds.

The researchers fear that electronic use behind the wheel could be even higher as the survey only asked about texting and emailing, not taking pictures, talking on the phone or using social media.

Discourage the behavior

If you’re the parent of a teen or young adult, there are some things you can do to discourage this risky driving behavior:

  • Educate your kids about the risks and dangers of texting while driving.
  • Install apps that don’t allow phone use while the car is moving.
  • Set firm rules and consequences for texting while driving.
  • Offer monetary incentives for safe driving behavior.
  • Model safe driving by not using your phone while driving.

Distracted driving and the resulting fatalities are entirely preventable. The number of crashes caused by distracted drivers continues to increase each year, but we can all play a role in eliminating them. No matter your age, put the phone down–the texts and calls can wait.