Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and texting while driving increases the risk of getting into a crash by 23 times compared to those who don’t text and drive. The CDC reports that nationally in 2011, 3,331 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver, and an additional 387,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
For drivers 19 years old or younger involved in fatal crashes, 11% were reported as distracted at the time of the accident; the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted among all age groups. Distracted driving is a nationwide problem and as new drivers, teens are the most vulnerable. Any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from paying attention to the road ahead and their surroundings is distracted driving.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use while driving. Since 2009, they have held two national distracted driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness about the issue.
Massachusetts passed the Safe Driving Law in September 2010. It prohibits Massachusetts drivers from writing, sending, or reading text messages and/or emails while driving. The law also bans cell phone use while driving for 16 and 17 year olds.
One Text or Call Could Wreck It All
One week each November is set aside to make teens more aware of the dangers of taking their eyes off the road. This year, National Teens “Don’t Text and Drive” Week is November 18th – 24th.
What Can Parents and Guardians Do?
Talk to Teens
The hazard of texting while driving is a serious threat to teenagers, as data illustrates. Parents who want to help keeping their son or daughter become a statistic should talk to them about the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to simply turn off the phone until they arrive at their destination.
Texting is an important form of communication for many teens and it takes restraint to not text and drive. This can be a difficult behavior to change but it can be achieved by rules and boundaries set by parents. The Governors Highway Safety Association composed 10 tips for managing the most common driver distractions. Remind teens of the serious consequences for violating the Massachusetts Safe Driving Law. If a teen is on the road, they should stay off the phone.
Make a Family Pledge
Print out and sign this pledge form and have every family member commit to distracted-free driving.
Lead by Example
Remember that driver training starts at home and teens learn by example. Set a positive example for teens by not using a cell phone, and by turning it off and placing it in the glove compartment every time your drive.