Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Posts Tagged ‘texting’

Teens still text while driving

Posted by lapearce on November 16, 2009

A car gets a flat tire in the passing lane of a freeway. The driver puts the hazards on, but five other cars still manage to hit the disabled vehicle causing a pile up. This crash wasn’t caused by text messaging, but the one a mile back in the traffic caused by the pile up was.

17 year old Laurie Cartwright was likely distracted by a text message when she hit the tractor-trailer in front of her that was stopped in traffic from the crash caused by the disabled car a mile up the road. The crash took Laurie’s life. In fact, last year nearly 6,000 people died from distracted driving, many from cell phone/texting.

Last year nearly 6,000 people died from distracted driving.

Screen shot from the gruesome UK PSA on texting while driving

Laurie’s story is one that is shared by many people across the United States. Yet despite personal experience, the wide-spread acknowledgment that texting while driving is dangerous, and even gory PSAs warning against the practice, a new study by the Pew Institute shows that one-in-three teens text while they drive. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Similar studies done in specific states such as Colorado and Texas have also shown even higher percentages of texting teens. If anything, the study should say “Texting while driving decreases among teen drivers.

A more disturbing fact found in the Pew study is that many teens confessed that they have seen their parents text while drive.  One teen said his dad drives “like he’s drunk. His phone is just like sitting right in front of his face, and he puts his knees on the bottom of the steering wheel and tries to text.” How can we expect our children to drive safely when this is the example we put before them?

The other problem here is the feeling of invincibility most teens have.

Try this experiment if you disagree with me. Ask any new driver how they think they compare to other drivers on the road. Chances are they will tell you that they are better than the average driver. You know, and I know, that based on the amount of experience they’ve had behind the wheel the chances of them being better than average are pretty slim, unless they are some driving prodigy. Despite this, most teens suffer from delusions of grandeur when it comes to their driving ability, and it shines through in the type of crashes they are involved in (typically caused by following too close, speeding and distractions.)

One teen in the Pew study said,  “I usually try to keep the phone up near the windshield, so if someone is braking in front of me or stops short, I’m not going to be looking down and hit them.” another said “it’s fine” to text and drive, and that he wears sunglasses while doing it “so the cops don’t see”

How do you overcome a false sense of skill and get it across to kids that what they are doing is bad? One thing to do is to show them how much texting does effect their awareness and reaction time. Unless you have professional driving instructors teaching this is best done outside of the car. Another option is to look at software that turns phones off while driving, such as Zoomsafer. Parents need to reenforce the dangers of this practice and set rules.

Here are some take aways from the Pew study:

  • 52 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who have cell phones say they have talked on their phones while driving.
  • 34 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who text say they have done so while driving.
  • 48 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
  • 40 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver “used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.”
  • 75 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have a cell phone, and 66 percent of them send or receive text messages.
  • Boys and girls are equally likely to report to texting while driving.
  • Many teens blame the need to report their whereabouts to friends and parents as the reason for texting while driving.
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North Carolina text news about passing of text messaging ban

Posted by lapearce on June 20, 2009

We all need a little humor every once and a while, so I hope everyone can appreciate the irony of a text messaging ban being communicated via text message. Now, the Governor Perdue’s aid was not driving when she texted the news, and I’m sure texting the news was done purposely to help the new law get some attention. I have to give the governor credit, because it worked.

The law goes into effect on December 1. North Carolina is now the 14th state to ban text messaging. From studies down both in Colorado and Texas it is obvious that most teens in this country text while they drive. In my opinion, texting is more dangerous than talking on the cell phone, which is said to be as dangerous as driving under the influence. 

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Colorado finds 1/2 of teens text while driving

Posted by lapearce on June 12, 2009

Colorado joined 12 other states on June 1 when the state banned texting for all drivers and cell phone use for teens under the age of 18. Cell phone laws are becoming more and more prevalent, and for good reason too. A 2006 NHTSA study found that distraction is a contributor in 80 percent of crashes. Cell phones alone increase crash risk four times and make the reaction time of the driver similar to that of a 70 year old.

Teens are more at risk for crashing while chatting because of their lack of inexperience and inability to correctly idenity risk. Even though we know that, it still comes as a shock that a study by the Colorado AAA found that 51 percent of teen drivers admit to texting while driving, and 66 percent admit to talking on the phone.Even though more than half of the participants admitted to texting while they drove, 97 percent said that they thought it was dangerous to do so.

These numbers are higher than the national average, but I also think they are more accurate. Many of the percentages from other studies have been collected in focus groups, were teens are with others and an adult is asking questions. If I was 16-years-old and an adult asked me if I did something that I knew was wrong, I think I’d be more likely to lie just to save face. The Colorado study, however, was done online. Anonymity and privacy make for more honest answers, IMO.

By banning cell phone use, states hope that fear of punishment will convince teens to do the right thing. Most teens even admit that talking while they drive is dangerous, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping them. But bans and common sense isn’t enough to convince many teens to hang up and drive.

There is a problem here, and the solution hasn’t quite presented itself yet. If laws and knowledge aren’t enough to stop teens from using phones while they drive, what is? It defintely doesn’t hurt to add more layers of enforcement to the equations. Parents: make sure you talk to your kids about cell phone use in the car. Have restrictions in place and punishments if they are broken.

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More states to restrict cell phone use while driving

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

21 states have now banned, or restricted, cell phone use for new drivers, and 24 other states have bills that would do the same (what are the five states without any restrictions? I’d like to know). These states have good reason to ban phones, the National Safety Council has found that drivers are 4x more likely to crash while using a cell phone. Inattention kills, and in today’s wired world it is so easier to pick up the phone and stop paying attention to the road around us. We’re all guilty of using our phones while we drive, but in some states, that can lead to a heavy fine, and for young drivers, even worse punishment.

Here are some of the new laws coming to a state near you:

Kentucky has two bills on the floor that would prohibit drivers from using cell phones while driving. Punishment for adults is a fine, for teen drivers, they get another 180 days added to their provisional license

Missouri passed a law that ban anyone under the sage of 21 from texting while driving at the cost of $200 and two points on your record. I have to wonder if we do become texting while driving experts after we turn 21, however.

Kansas (same article as above) prohibits anyone under the age of 16 1/2 from using a phone while driving. It’s a start, but this law is still too weak.

The Tulsa World article brings up some troubling statistics about the effectiveness of cell phone and texting bans, however:

he insurance institute last year studied a cell phone ban for drivers under 18 in North Carolina. Researchers found that teens leaving high school in the afternoon changed little before and after the ban started.

About 11 percent of teen drivers were seen using phones before the law. It increased to 12 percent after the ban, the study found.

Rader, the insurance institute spokesman, said laws restricting cell phone use don’t appear to be effective. He pointed out that most teens interviewed in North Carolina knew about the cell phone ban, but didn’t think it was vigorously enforced.

“If drivers don’t believe they are likely to be spotted and ticketed, they’re unlikely to change their behavior,” he said.

Another study of a ban on handheld cell phones for New York drivers turned up similar results. Cell phone use dropped immediately after the ban started, but a year later it had picked up again.

“As soon as the publicity died down, cell phone use went back up to almost where it was before,” Rader said.

The moral of the story us: if the laws aren’t being enforced, they won’t be followed. It doesn’t matter how dangerous talking and driving is, it doesn’t matter how many people die doing so, no enforcement = no compliance.

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