Teen drivers encouraged to pay attention behind the wheel
National Teen Driver Safety Week observed Oct. 16 – 22
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2011)–The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is helping raise awareness of distracted driving in teenagers during the National Teen Driver Safety Week, which occurs from Oct. 16-22.
Inspired by the loss of classmates and friends, distracted driving is currently a pressing issue for many high school students. High schools throughout the nation have formed teen-led organizations and promoted educational opportunities that are shaping driving attitudes and behaviors.
“All too often, the devices are winning and our kids are losing—with tragic results,” said KOHS Director Bill Bell. “Young people are America’s future, but it’s increasingly clear their future is in jeopardy due to the popularity of electronic devices constantly vying for their attention on our highways.”
The KOHS coordinates several highway safety events in schools and communities throughout the year. The Distracted Driving (D2) Simulator is the most popular educational tool for high school students. The simulator exposes teenagers to the real-life hazards of distracted driving without risking their lives involving a vehicular crash. Drivers can receive and send phone calls and text messages while attempting to obey the rules of the road. More than 55 D2 programs have been conducted in high schools to date.
While no one is exempt from distracting driving, teens are especially susceptible. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 691 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted teen driver in 2009. In addition, a Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project survey revealed that nearly half of the teens interviewed rode in a vehicle with a driver who texted. Another third of survey participants said they’d texted while driving.
Conversely, not all the news about teen driving is negative. 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 have also dropped by 38 percent over the same period.
States are taking great measures to reduce the fatality and incident rates among teenage drivers. Youth driving programs like Graduated Driver Licensing have had a profound impact in saving young lives. In addition, NHTSA research shows that anti-texting laws and stronger law enforcement have helped significantly.
Currently, 34 states including Kentucky have passed legislation outlawing texting while driving. Kentucky’s texting law bans texting for all drivers while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers under 18, use of all personal communication devices such as cell phones and pagers is not allowed while the vehicle is in motion.
For more information on teen driving safety, please visit www.nhtsa.gov; www.distraction.gov; or http://highwaysafety.ky.gov.
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