We have the power to stop the number one killer of teens in the U.S.
Scientists work tirelessly in search of a cure for cancer, humanitarians desperately push to end world hunger, and the world advocates for less violence – yet our teens are dying in car crashes across the nation for reasons that are often avoidable.
So why aren’t we avoiding it?
In 2016, more than 3,500 teens lost their lives and 359,000 were injured in car crashes nationwide. Teenage drivers have higher rates of crashes per licensed driver and per mile driven than any other age group.
Nationwide, approximately 58.5 percent of teen crashes are the direct result of some form of distracted behavior such as attending to passengers or cell phone use.
Despite these numbers, we still refuse to put the distractions away. Our phones have become more important to us than our safety on the roads.
In a 2015 survey of drivers sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 70 percent of drivers ages 16-18 reported they had talked on a cell phone, 42 percent had read a text or e-mail and 32 percent had typed/texted while driving in the past 30 days.
Even with new car technology designed to curb handheld device use, a recent AAA Foundation study found these systems to be equally distracting. Voice-based and touch screen features require high levels of visual and mental demand for usually more than 40 seconds to complete a task such as navigation or sending a text. However, removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash. Responding to a text takes a driver’s attention off the road for an average of five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, motorists drive the length of a football field while responding to a text – while essentially blindfolded.
As this epidemic continues, so does National Teen Driver Safety Week, which was recently held over the period of October 15-21.
In addition to highlighting the damage done by distracted driving, the national campaign brings awareness the dangers of to drinking and driving as well.
Close to 25 percent of fatal teen crashes nationwide were due to alcohol in 2016. Twenty percent of traffic fatalities for 18 and 19 year-olds were due to driving with a BAC over .01 – despite being underage.
The promising news is that your peers are calling for a change.
Around 88 percent of teens support a law requiring all drivers convicted of a DWI use a device that won’t let their car start if they have been drinking, as opposed to 81 percent of drivers aged 33-55. Additionally, 75 percent of teens support in-car technology that won’t allow the car to start if the driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit, compared to 69 percent of drivers aged 35-55.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to put a stop to this epidemic.
- Commit to putting your phone away for the duration of your drive. There is no conversation more important than your safety and the safety of those around you.
- If applicable, take advantage of Apple’s new technology “Do Not Disturb While Driving,” which notifies anyone trying to reach you that you will get back to them once you have reached your destination.
- Spread the word. If you are riding in a car with someone who is putting your life at risk by using their phone, tell them to #DisconnectandDrive.
- Never get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol – with so many resources at your fingertips to help you get home safely, there is NO excuse to drink and drive.
- Have a plan. Designated a sober driver BEFORE leaving the house or be familiar with your local ride sharing options such as Uber, Lyft or a taxi.
Our phones are getting smarter each day, but we have to be smart enough to know when to put them down.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 2.1 million member and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.
For more seasonal traffic safety tips, please subscribe to our AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety e-newsletter. By clicking the button below, you will be registered to receive an email each month with the latest information regarding traffic safety, including travel forecasts and automotive trends.