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Lesson 1: Distracted Driving—Dangers, Awareness, and Advocacy

Fast Fact: For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones. ("Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2011," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Warm-Up: Tap into what students already know about distracted driving by inviting them to share an example of distracted driving that they have witnessed either as a passenger, a fellow driver on the road or as a pedestrian.

Activity: Have students read Worksheet A, which includes the article "The Devastating Consequences of Distracted Driving," and then complete the analysis page examining how the author of the article uses the three modes of persuasion: ethos (demonstrating credibility and authority), pathos (appealing to the reader's emotions), and logos (appealing to the reader's logic). Direct students to write a short essay in response to "The Devastating Consequences of Distracted Driving." Remind students to pay careful attention to using correct grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling while crafting an essay that addresses the following questions:

  • How would you define distracted driving? What are some activities that are examples of this?
  • Have you ever noticed distracted driving in your own community?
  • What did you learn about distracted driving and its impact on society?
  • What does it mean to be an "advocate"? How could advocacy be a way to make driving safer for everyone?

Critical Thinking: Despite the increase in the number of state laws banning texting and restricting phone use while driving, distracted-driving related crashes have continued to cause fatalities and permanent injuries. Ask students to consider this trend and support their opinions with evidence from the text.

  • Why might new laws not be effective in preventing distracted driving?
  • How would you explain the behavior of drivers who see others driving while distracted, but do not change their own behavior?
  • What measures do you think states should take to combat distracted driving?

Community Connection: As distracted-driving laws are proving difficult to enforce, more dramatic decreases in distracted driving will likely result from individuals policing their own behavior behind the wheel. This is where advocacy can prove a powerful tool in making the roadways safer for drivers, passengers, and bystanders alike.

  • Did the article change the way you think about distracted driving?
  • What do you think might happen if more people were aware of the dangers of distracted driving?
  • How do you think advocating for safer driving could make a difference in terms of addressing this serious national safety concern?
  • How might you become an advocate?

Role-Play: Invite students to work in pairs and take turns practicing a conversation they could have with a peer, a parent, and a stranger (three different scenarios) about the dangers of distracted driving. How might their approach vary for each scenario? For students in grades 9 and 10, ask them to summarize points of agreement and disagreement between their own opinions and those of their partner at the end of the role-play activity. For students in grades 11 and 12, ask them to actively probe their partner's reasoning and express divergent opinions.

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