With most teens having cell phones and other handheld devices, the concerns over inexperienced drivers becomes more pressing. Even seasoned drivers experience a significant level of impairment when using a phone or handheld device while operating a vehicle. With young drivers, the natural learning process is only further hampered by distractions while behind the wheel. Texting while driving accounts for over 5,000 fatal accidents per year. A growing percentage of these accidents involve inexperienced drivers. According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the demographic with the greatest occurrence of distracted driving is the under-20 age group – 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes admit to driving while distracted (via distraction.gov). With this in mind, instilling the importance of safe driving habits in young drivers becomes critical.
The most important element in educating young drivers lies in cementing the fact that there is no safe way to use a cell phone or other device while behind the wheel. The ramifications of talking or texting while driving go far beyond the potential financial or legal complications. Serious accidents can occur, causing catastrophic damage to personal property, serious injury to drivers and pedestrians, and potential loss of life caused by unsafe operation of a vehicle. Helping young drivers understand the realities and consequences of unsafe operation is integral to ensuring traffic safety for themselves and everyone on the road.
In 2010, Georgia passed two pieces of legislation to prevent the use of cell phones and texting while driving. House Bill 23 prohibits the use of a “telecommunication device” for any purpose by drivers under the age of 18. In addition, Senate Bill 360 prohibits any text-based communication by all drivers while driving, including reading or sending of texts, emails, or any other text-based communication. The bill, was named the “Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving,” so named for an 18-year-old student who was killed while texting while driving. Caleb’s classmates rallied support for the bill as a way to honor the memory of their classmate and friend, and to foster awareness of the terrible cost of distracted driving.
While legislation such as the Caleb Sorohan Act is an important step towards creating safer driving conditions for all operators, it is difficult to overstate the importance of instilling good driving habits in young drivers throughout the learning process. This involves setting the proper example for young drivers, providing adequate opportunity for practice and driver education, and instilling in young drivers a sense of the profound responsibility of operating a motor vehicle. With a concerted effort by parents, legislators, law enforcement and the community at large, holistic driver education can be achieved, and better traffic safety and awareness can be within reach.
Talk to your kids about the risks associated with distracted driving and encourage them to visit www.TeensAgainstDistractedDriving.com to sign the pledge. When they do, they’ll receive a “I PLDG 2 NT TXT N DRV” wristband!