Decreasing Fatalities Caused by Distracted Teen Drivers
Distracted driving is any conduct while driving that takes your eyes and attention off the road and/or hands off the wheel for any period of time. Having teen passengers in a car is a major distraction for teens, but most cases involve the use of a smartphone. Statistics show that most users take their eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, more than enough time for a hazard to present itself and for the user to not react in time.
Studies show that 50% of teenage boys admit to texting while driving and 45% of girls. The incidence of texting appears to grow with age with 58% of 18-year old’s admitting to texting and driving as compared to 15-year-old drivers who admitted to much less texting.
It is well known that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Speeding and reckless driving that includes drunk driving are major culprits in fatal teen car accidents but distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving as the main factor in fatal accidents. In fact, drunk driving among teens is on the decrease thanks to decades of extensive media attention and education in schools.
Driving laws in nearly every state prohibit texting and driving with many states banning any hand-held phone use. Safety advocates note, however, that these laws are ineffective since so many people have admitted to their use regardless of the penalties.
We can reduce fatalities caused by distracted driving by educating teens in middle and high school. Speeches or presentations to students by teens or young adults who caused a fatal accident by being distracted or use of a cell phone can be effective since it is a peer who experienced the horror and now lifelong sorrow of taking another life.
Another factor in fatal crashes among teens is that in 80% of fatal accidents, the teen was not wearing a seat belt. Simply wearing a seat belt saves thousands of lives each year and prevents serious injuries from occurring. Since so many people will likely continue to text and drive, at least wearing a seat belt offers them a 45% increased chance of surviving a crash though it does not protect the pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcycle rider who may be the victim of their distracted behavior.
A parent may insist that cell phones be turned off when driving so as not to tempt their child from looking at or responding to a text. Parents also need to set good examples by doing the same or by giving their phone to a passenger. If driving alone and GPS is needed, then have a phone mount on the dash. Newer vehicles do have Bluetooth capabilities so that calls can be made or answered hands-free. This is legal in all states though users should be cautious in their use.