As young drivers head back to school, a new Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report explores the problem of teen distracted driving and highlights promising policies designed to address it. According to the most recent data, teens represent the largest proportion of drivers who are distracted at the time of a fatal crash. These crashes impact not only the distracted teen drivers, but also other roadway users: 57 percent of those killed were the teen drivers; the rest were their passengers, other vehicle occupants, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The report, Distracted & Dangerous: Helping States Keep Teens Focused on the Road, looks at legislation, enforcement and educational programs developed and implemented by the public and private sector at the national, state and local levels. Funded through a grant by State Farm®, the report was researched and written by nationally recognized teen safe driving expert, Pam Fischer, Principal of Pam Fischer Consulting.
“Teens have the highest crash risk of any age group, and research confirms that distraction is often a factor,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, who oversaw the development of the report. “Eliminating distraction caused by electronic devices and passengers, two of the main culprits for novice drivers, is essential, and back to school season is the perfect time to share this message.”
Experts point to research findings that delays in start times of as little as 25 minutes can lead to measurable changes. Some studies have found improvements in hours slept, daytime sleepiness, attendance, academic performance and mood, and decreases in driving accidents and risky behaviors, experts say. Especially compelling, experts say, is evidence that delaying school start times reduces the number of driving accidents involving teen drivers.
In a March study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers at the University of Minnesota found a 65%-to-70% decrease in vehicle crashes among 16- to 18-year-olds in two high schools, in Wyoming and Minnesota, excluding crashes caused by unrelated factors, such as intoxication.
The study looked at more than 9,000 high-school students in five districts in Wyoming, Minnesota and Colorado that had delayed school start times to the 8 a.m.-to-8:55 a.m. window. The researchers compared attendance records, academic performance, mental health and car-crash rates before and after the changes to start times.
This report, made possible with funding from The Allstate Foundation, details promising programs and practices that states are using to encourage teens to wear their seat belts every time they drive or ride in a vehicle. The programs listed can serve as road maps to other states and stakeholders concerned about keeping young drivers safe on our roads.
“Distracted Driving Kills” is not just a bumper-sticker slogan. SafeCell’s Scott Taylor notes that more than 3,000 teens die each year in crashes caused by texting while driving (TWD), making that partiucular species of distracted driving the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. As a concerned father of three, Taylor decided to tackle this behavioral epidemic head on with a new mobile app called SafeCell 360, which is being made available for free to all teenage drivers during the coming 2014/2015 school year.
Instead of helping teenagers drive safely, many parents distract their kids with their pesky calls, says a study.
Researchers interviewed more than 400 teenage drivers, aged between 15 and 18, from 31 US states to find out why they continue to talk and text behind the wheel, despite warnings about the serious hazards of distracted driving.
"Teens said parents expect to be able to reach them, that parents get mad if they do not answer their phone and they have to tell parents where they are," said Noelle LaVoie, a cognitive psychologist based in Petaluma, California in the US.
Parents play a direct role in distracted teenage driving, with more than half of teenagers talking on cellphones with their parents while driving, the findings showed.