KIDS
June 14, 2016

An Accident Waiting to Happen

Teenagers drive more — and cause more accidents — during the summer. Parents can do a lot to reduce the risk.

The summer months, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, mean teenaged drivers are on the road more — for both jobs and recreation — than they are during the school year. This is in itself a hazardous condition, since teenage drivers can become lethal behind the wheel.

According to research by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Traffic Safety Foundation, in the last five years over 5000 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers. Almost two-thirds of those injured or killed are not the teen drivers.

Teens spend less time actually talking on their phones and instead spend more time using their phones for texting and social media, which are even more dangerous distractions.

“Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver,” according to Jurek Grabowski, research director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The Foundation collaborated with the University of Iowa recently and analyzed over 22,000 videos from in-car dash cameras that recorded the moments leading up to crashes.

They found that there are three major distractions for the teens behind the wheel: talking to or attending to other passengers in the car; talking, texting or operating a cell phone, and looking at something else inside the vehicle. The common denominator was that whatever they were focusing on had drawn their attention from the road and from the other vehicles around them.

Teens spend less time actually talking on their phones and instead spend more time using their phones for texting and social media, which are even more dangerous distractions. Texting and attending to words and images on the phone screen while driving is even more dangerous than talking on the phone. One study, from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, revealed that texting increases the risk of a crash 23 times more than driving without distractions. The AAA's findings indicate that almost half of teens surveyed admitted to reading a text or email while driving in the thirty days preceding the survey.

Parents Need to Set Ground Rules
The AAA is calling for an assertive approach. They would like to keep cells phones away from teen drivers. They support graduated licensing laws and teen wireless bans, and call on lawmakers to consider such legislation.

Parents have a key role in this issue. They can start by educating their children about the dangers of distracted driving and establishing family rules and consequences about the use of phones and screen devices while driving. Most importantly, they need to set a good example with their own behavior and putting their cell phones away when driving.

The AAA Smart Start program provides online resources to help parents safely and effectively approach their teens' introductions to driving. Parents are also encouraged to enroll their teen drivers in formal driver education programs.

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