The National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) say, “ Motor car accidents are the largest youth health and safety concern for teens.” This is why NOYS has made youth traffic safety their priority, focusing their efforts, year-round, to address youth traffic safety issues. Each year, NOYS sends a coalition of teen leaders to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC.
These youth serve on the Teen Leadership Team that helps to develop and implement youth-led community distracted driving prevention programs.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is anything that causes driver inattention (cell phone use, texting, loud music, and conversation or horseplay with passengers), pulling driver focus away from potential hazards in and around the vehicle.
Teen Drivers: Greatest Risk
A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey of distracted driving attitudes and behavior among teens shows that young drivers are more likely to have been involved in a crash or near-crash, and drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely send text messages or e-mails while driving, when compared with their older counterparts.
While distracted driving poses problems for drivers of all ages on Minnesota roadways, teens are at particular risk. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s (MDPS) Crash Facts 2010, 18% of all traffic crashes in Minnesota involved teen deaths, and although teen drivers represent only 6.5% of all licensed drivers, they are involved in 11.4% of crashes in our state. Driver inattention is a contributing factor in 14.3% of all teen single car accidents.
Though most drivers believe that sending text messages while operating a vehicle is unsafe, the survey found that teens are much less likely to speak up if a driver is texting while driving.
This information is chilling when you take into account that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55 mph – of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
How to Help Your Teen Avoid the Dangers of Distracted Driving
There are resource toolkits available for young drivers to get a handle on the hazards that distracted driving brings. The kits include presentations on distracted driving, flyers and a pledge to help your teen understand the importance of eliminating distractions. If you’d like more information about these kits, use these resources:
Youth For Road Safety: Youth and Road Safety Action Kit
Distraction.gov Teen Action Toolkit
In addition, our own University of Minnesota has developed an online video game called “Distraction Dodger” that premiered at last year’s Summit and allows teens to virtually deal with driving distractions in a safe practice environment. The game features a virtual pizza delivery truck, piloted by your teen, with the goal of delivering pizza in time, while being tempted with distractions (eating, using a cell phone).
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood called the game a “valuable new tool for fighting distracted driving that delivers its message in a fun and interactive way.”