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The Dangers of Texting and Driving for Teens

It seems to be almost commonplace to hear something in the news about an accident caused by texting and driving, in New York and throughout the US. The fact is that texting while operating a vehicle is a major form of “distracted” driving, which is a term used to describe any activity that diverts attention away from driving, which needs to be the primary task at hand and the primary focus. Other examples of distracted driving include talking on the phone, viewing social media, eating or drinking, grooming, loud music, drugs or alcohol and many others. In fact, the distractions caused by texting has been compared to the threat of a driver under the influence of alcohol.

When a driver cannot devote his or her full attention to controlling the car, the result is a safety hazard and an increased risk of a motor vehicle accident. Texting while driving is a particularly scary type of distraction because sending or reading a message takes the eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. To put that in perspective, if a person was moving at 60mph and had their eyes off the road for 5 seconds, they have traveled 440 feet without looking at the road. The distracted driver has traveled a distance farther than a football field without looking at the road.

Texting and Driving Statistics in the US

Nationwide statistics bear out how risky texting while can be, as well as how dangerous it actually is in accidents:

  • Engaging in texting increases the risk of a collision by double as compared to what the NHTSA refers to as “model” driving.
  • On average, text messaging takes a driver’s eyes off the road for a total of 23 seconds.
  • In 2015, 3,477 people died in car accidents involving distracted drivers, including those texting at the time. That number is up from 3,154 in the year 2013 and 3,179 in 2014.
  • During 2015, 391,000 were injured in texting and distracted driving crashes.
  • There are around 660,000 drivers using their phones during daylight hours, despite the fact that 46 states have enacted laws prohibiting texting while driving.
  • The CDC reports that 31% of drivers aged 18-64 had read or sent text messages while driving at least once during the previous month. Three-quarters of drivers admit that they’ve seen others do so as well.

Teens and Texting While Driving

Getting a driver’s license is probably the most anticipated milestone in a teenager’s life, and many parents even look forward to the moment when their children can get behind the wheel. However, the riskiest time period for a teen driver is within the first few months after obtaining their license. The biggest factors for teen drivers include lack of experience, risk taking, and impaired driving. However, driving while distracted by texting is at the top of the list. Peer pressure can play a big factor too, so it is important that parents explain to their children the true dangers of texting and driving.

Here are some age-specific statistics that show the alarming incidence of teens who text while driving.

  • Of all drivers under the age of 20 that were involved in fatal crashes, 10% admitted to being distracted by text or phone use.
  • Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the US.
  • On average, 7 teens die in car crashes every day.
  • A transportation research study found that up to 25% of teen drivers respond to texts one or more times, every time they drive. Twenty percent of teens and ten percent of parents admit that they have extended text message exchanges while driving.
  • The FCC found that 11% of motorists in the 18-20 age group who were involved in a car accident admitted that they were texting at the time of the collision.

Resources for Parents

While these statistics are alarming, there are preventative ways parents can improve safety behind the wheel for their teens. Children will naturally imitate their parents, so start them off on the right foot by being a good example behind the wheel yourself. Wear your seatbelt, stick to the speed limit, and most importantly, never look at your phone while driving. Be the motorist you want your young driver to be by eliminating distractions.

It’s also smart to consider a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that lays out your expectations for your child’s use of the car. A written contract allows you to outline rules and penalties before an accident occurs. Additional resources for parents include AAA’s Keys 2 Drive as well as on the CDC’s site, Parents are the Key to Safe Teen Driving.

About the Author

Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.

His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.