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A Warning Against Distracted Driving For American Teens

On an unseasonably warm afternoon in April 2009, Julie Davis, a resident of Rudolph, Wisconsin, joined a friend on a hiking excursion near her house. As they walked alongside the road, Davis was struck from behind by a teen traveling 70 mph. Witnesses had noticed the 19-year-old veering back and forth on the road not long before she hit Davis. The lack of skid marks near the scene of the crash revealed that the driver had not even tried to decrease her speed. Perhaps in the nine seconds that her eyes were focused on her mobile phone, she did not see the pedestrians, which would explain why she neglected to stop. Authorities pronounced Davis dead at the scene of the accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teenagers are involved in more fatal distracted driving accidents than any other age group, explains a California injury lawyer.

In 2008, 5,870 people died and another 515,000 were injured in traffic accidents involving distracted driving. That same year, 16% of all drivers younger than 20 years old involved in fatal collisions were reportedly distracted at the time. The age group with the second highest percentage of distracted driving crashes was 20- to 29-year-olds.

Research has repeatedly found that immaturity and a lack of experience with driving increases this age group’s risk of being distracted on the road. Additionally, many teens do not know how distractions can present safety hazards, according to a recent survey by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and a major insurance company.

For unsupervised 16- to 19-year-old drivers, the likelihood of an accident occurring increases with the number of passengers in the vehicle, explains a California injury lawyer. Unfortunately, only 10% of young drivers know this. 64% even said that they have seen friends driving with teen passengers frequently or all of the time.

While it is a well-established fact that cell phone use while driving is highly distracting and dangerous-insofar as many states have banned the activity-only 28% of teens claimed to be aware of this. Moreover, 57% of teenagers reported that their friends talk on their mobile phones while driving frequently or all of the time.

79% believed that texting or using other hand-held devices while operating a motor vehicle is dangerously distracting. 19% said that they had seen friends engaging in these activities while on the road.

In response to the high incidence of distracted driving and related accidents among teenagers, 23 states have created educational materials and implemented driver safety programs for teens and parents: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia

Research has indicated that parents play a vital role in the behavior of their children, including whether or not they drive safely. Setting a good example is one of the best methods of raising cautious drivers. Parents should avoid dangerous or distracting activities while driving.