A new study has revealed that texting and driving is the leading cause of death for teenagers behind the wheel. It has surpassed drinking and driving as one of the greatest hazards to teen drivers. Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park now estimate that there are approximately 300,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths annually due to the habit.
In contrast, there are approximately 2,700 teens killed each year due to drinking and driving and about 282,000 injuries due to accidents involving alcohol. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A team from Cohen looked at drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 for a period that lasted just over a year.
The team looked at 8,947 teens and nearly half of boys admitted to texting behind the wheel, and close to 45 percent of girls admitted the same. While drinking and driving has reportedly gone down among this age group, texting and driving is said to have skyrocketed.
Researchers also compared the answers they received to state laws. They looked at states in which texting and driving is against the law and those where it isn’t. They found, disappointingly, that the laws have no effect one way or the other. Texting is the worst form of distracted driving, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, because it takes mental, visual and manual concentration.
Studies that have been strictly observational estimate that there are over 100,000 drivers texting at any minute during daylight hours. More than 600,000 use their phone in some manner while they are driving. One of the researchers pointed out that there is a taboo among drinking and driving, despite teens not drinking and driving every day. There doesn’t seem to be concern among teens regarding texting and driving, yet children are dying at an average of more than one person a day.
Parents want to believe that their teenagers aren’t texting and driving. The truth is, if they aren’t doing it regularly, they’ve done it at least once. There are things that teenagers do in the car that are considered safer than texting, even though they are dangerous. Adjusting the stereo, talking on the phone, and talking to people in the car are all distracting but considered less dangerous than texting.
As said above, the reason that it is so dangerous is because it takes mental, visual and manual concentration:
When a teen chooses to text and drive, they are at an increased rate for being involved in a collision. In fact, that rate increases by 400 percent. They veer out of their lane 10 percent more often than other drivers, and close to half of teens say that they have been a passenger in a vehicle when the driver was texting and driving.
Teens report feeling as though they need to respond to a text or receive a response within five minutes. This is considered to be just one of the issues behind the hazardous habit. It takes approximately five seconds to check a text or respond to it. In that amount of time, your teen can cover the distance of a football field if they are traveling at 55 mph.
There are a couple of facts that can help put that danger in perspective:
Most parents don’t allow their children to smoke, and many will help their child develop healthy eating habits as they grow up. The same parents may not be having the very serious discussions that need to be held regarding texting and driving with their teenagers.
Unless you are in the car with your teen driver, you cannot control what they do. All you can do is hope that your rules and actions will be enough. Before your child slips behind the wheel, make sure you do the following.
1. Have a Conversation
The dangers of distracted driving should be an ongoing conversation between you and your teen driver. One mention of it is not enough. After your conversation about the dangers of the behavior, take the time to remind your child not to text and drive every time you hand over the keys.
2. Set an Example
Teens aren’t the only drivers texting and driving. If you are behind the wheel, set an example. Turn your phone to driving mode, turn it off altogether or put it in the back seat. Let your children see that you are serious; this is not a “do as I say, not as I do” situation.
3. Install an App
There are dozens of apps on the market designed to keep your child safe. Pick one and install it. One of the most popular is TeenSafe Control. You can pause your child’s smartphone remotely, block apps or even restrict access to the phone during certain times.
If you or your child is involved in a vehicle collision in West Palm Beach due to someone’s distracted driving, reach out to our team for a free consultation. We understand your legal rights and options and are happy to explain them to you, helping you make decisions appropriate to your case.