EUSTIS — The Lake County Community Traffic Safety Team is helping raise awareness of the tremendous risks teens confront on the roads during National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from Oct. 16-22.
“The increasing popularity of electronic devices is constantly vying for attention for many teen drivers,” says Sgt. Tom McKane, Chairman of the Lake County Community Traffic Safety Team. “All too often, the devices are winning and our kids are losing—with tragic results.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in 2009 more than 3,214 teens ages 15 through 19 died in vehicle crashes, and 594 (18%) of those fatal crashes involved distracted driving.
While no one is exempt from the impact of distracting devices brought into a vehicle, teens are especially susceptible. A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported that nearly half of the teens interviewed had ridden in a vehicle with a driver who texted, and a third of the teens surveyed said they’d texted themselves while driving.
“We want to remind our teen drivers that no call or text is more important than your life,” adds McKane.
Bringing awareness to the issue has had positive results. Overall, teen driving deaths and teen driver involvement in fatal crashes have declined during the last nine years, according to NHTSA. In 2009, the number of fatalities in crashes involving a 15- to 19-year-old driver dropped 10 percent compared with 1998 (driver fatalities for this age group also dropped by 38 percent over the same period).
It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason for these declines. But youth driving programs like Graduated Driver Licensing have had a profound impact in saving young lives. Also, NHTSA research show that anti-texting laws and stronger law enforcement have helped significantly. To date, 34 states—along with the District of Columbia and Guam—have passed legislation outlawing texting while driving.
For more information on teen driving safety, please visit www.nhtsa.gov; www.distraction.gov; or www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov, or more information on the Lake County Community Traffic Safety Team, call (352) 483-9048.