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Teen Drivers Face More Risks on the Road


Parents Should Instill Importance of Highway Safety in Their Children

While the campaign against texting and driving accelerates – and rightly so – maybe a little more attention should be paid to talking on cell phones while driving, especially when the vehicle operators are teens.

Distracted driving, defined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration as inattentiveness caused by another activity other than safely steering the vehicle, caused 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the United States in 2011, that latest year for which statistics are available. The agency also found 17 percent of all injury crashes were distraction-affected. Those statistics and more were reported in a research note titled “Distracted Driving 2011.”


But here’s is where it gets interesting or, should we say, scary? Of drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes, a total of 11 percent were distracted at the time of the incident, the report said, noting, “This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.” Within that population, a total of 21 percent were in that state of inattentiveness – from their cell phones.

“Distracted driving is a behavior dangerous to drivers, passengers, and nonoccupants alike,” the report said.

An American Psychological Association study found more than half of all teens who talk on their cell phones while driving said their parents were on the other end of those calls, most of which were incoming.

“Teens said parents expect to be able to reach them, that parents get mad if they don’t answer their phone and they have to tell parents where they are,” California-based psychologist Noelle LaVoie said in the study.

LaVoie suggested parents ask whether their child is behind the wheel at the time of the call as a precaution.

“If they are, tell them to call you back or to find a spot to pull over so they can talk,” she said.

Another survey conducted in 2013 by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions concluded that upward of 85 percent of older teens admitted to using their cell phones in the car, a number that, four years prior, was 43 percent.

“It’s critical not only for teens, but all drivers to understand that any time you pull out your phone when you are driving, whether you’re moving or at a stoplight, your attention is diverted and you put yourself, passengers and others on the road at risk,” said David Melton, a Liberty Mutual Insurance safety expert. “If you need to use your phone while driving, find a safe place to pull off the road to make a call or send a text. It’s not worth the risk to respond at a stop sign or before the light turns green.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies seven other leading causes of teen crashes in addition to cell-phone use. They are:

  • Driver inexperience. The agency advises parents to practice driving with their children for at least 30 hours before letting them hit the streets alone.
  • Driving with other teens. In states where passenger restrictions apply, such as California, it’s as easy as following the law. In states where passenger restrictions do not apply, such as Florida, the CDC recommends limiting teen companions to no more than one.
  • Driving at night. The CDC’s take on driving after dark is to tell your children to be in the driveway by 10 p.m. at the latest.
  • Driving without buckling up. Parents should mandate their teens to wear their seat belt the minute they get behind the wheel.
  • Driving while drowsy, reckless driving and driving under the influence round out the list.

“Eight teens a day are killed in car crashes,” according to the agency. “Make sure your young driver is aware of the leading causes of teen crashes, and put rules in place to help your teen stay safe.”

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