April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s a good reminder that we all need to be more aware of what we are doing as we motor along America’s byways and highways. However, you’re not alone if you get a pit in your stomach every time your teenager grabs the car keys and heads out on the roads. Many parent’s biggest fear is that something might happen while their teen is out driving.
Sadly, there is a reality behind that fear; getting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things a young person can do. Teen drivers are much more likely to be texting or using a device while driving than any other age group. They are also more prone to dangerous interactions with their passengers. Accident rates for all drivers have gone up the past two years, but drivers aged 15-20 years old were more likely to be involved in crashes attributed to distracted driving, which is the leading cause of death for people in that age group.
Here are some startling statistics that show why:
- At any given moment, approximately 660,000 motorists are using or manipulating a cell phone
- 70 percent of people ages 16-19 and 88 percent of ages 19-24 admitted in an insurance industry survey that they regularly text while driving
- At 55 miles per hour, the average text takes a person’s eyes off the road long enough to travel the length of a football field
- 60 percent of teen crashes involve distractions behind the wheel
- Teen driving deaths increase around prom and summer season
Most of these are preventable tragedies. Sadly, they impact thousands of families every year like Amanda C., a California teen who survived a previous crash while texting and driving, but not a second similar crash a year later. Seventeen year old Alex B. from Texas lost her life when she rolled the truck she was driving while texting, and 21 year old Casey F. from Pennsylvania was killed instantly when a distracted driver hit her while she was crossing the street.
Ironically, an analysis of the last messages in fatal crashes attributed to texting found many common words such as: “love you;” “home soon;” “need to stop texting, unsafe;” “send me the directions;” and “OK.”
So what can you do to protect your teens?
- Enroll them in a safe driving course
- Follow the graduated driver licensing rules: no driving at night and no or limited passengers for the first six months or for a full year
- Require seat belts and safety restraints be worn at all times
- Enforce a no cell phone/texting policy
- Urge young drivers to observe all speed and safety regulations
- Provide a vehicle that offers the best protection in crash tests
- Set a good example for them to follow
A great resource is Impact Teen Drivers. The nonprofit educates teens about the deadly consequences of distracted driving. They offer evidence-based, peer-to-peer programs and information to empower young drivers to make good choices behind the wheel. They also hold a twice a year Create Real Impact contest, rewarding students ages 14-22 for their creative messages discouraging distracted driving. California Casualty is committed to making our roadways safer and we are a major sponsor of Impact Teen Drivers. We urge you to learn more at www.calcas.com/impact-teen-drivers.