The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported last week that traffic fatalities increased 9.5% (9,600 people) the second quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year. The number of teen-involved fatalities increased 10% in 2015 after a decade of steadily falling numbers. Bart Jansen says teenagers were involved in 14,000 fatal crashes over the last five years. About one-third involved speeding:

Teens are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than adults, according to the report. The crashes involved teen drivers, but the fatalities could have been a passenger, somebody in another car, a bicyclist or pedestrian.

“This report drives home the message that there is still much to do to reduce teen driver fatal crashes and the resulting deaths,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the governors group.

 

Jansen finds the three most common mistakes teen drivers make in a survey of professional driving instructors: speeding, talking on a cell phone or with other passengers, and poor scanning of the road. Parents, he says, could be better role models:

Adults sometimes set a bad example. Another AAA survey found 77% of drivers aged 35 to 55 reported talking on cell phones while driving, compared to 68% of teenagers. Nearly half of each age group reported speeding at least 15 mph over the limit on freeways.

“We all know that the combination of inexperience and risk taking can be a deadly one,” said Jennifer Ryan, AAA’s director of state relations. “Parents play a major role in keeping our roads safe.”

 

It’s not like teenagers aren’t learning about the dangers of distracted driving. It’s just that they don’t think the risks apply to them. It’s the way teenagers think. They know they shouldn’t use their cell phones, says Richard Laliberte, but they do it anyway:

In surveys by the Allstate Foundation, 87 percent of teens say texting while driving is a huge risk. Another 65 percent describe themselves as good drivers who pay attention. Yet two-thirds of those same teens say they’ve texted behind the wheel themselves—and far more say they’ve made or answered a call. The top reason for taking such dangerous risks? Not thinking about consequences at that moment.

 

Boys drive more aggressively but Laliberte notes that girls may be more distractible:

While boys have a history of more aggressive driving (and higher insurance rates to match), distractions are closing the safety gap. Girls are more likely than boys to talk and text on a cell, sing, dance, and eat behind the wheel, according to the Allstate Foundation. In fact, 66 percent of girls frequently drive while singing or dancing to music, and 63 percent crank up the volume. And they’re more likely to blow off the risks: Half of girls (but only about a third of boys) say they’ll probably use a cell phone while driving in the future. They are also less likely to speak up if a friend’s driving behavior makes them uncomfortable.

 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board looked at the data and concludes that legislation to increase safety has its limits:

Reducing texting while driving poses a challenge for lawmakers, law enforcement and innovators — and not every idea for reducing it would be worth pursuing. Perfect safety is impossible, and attempts to achieve it could take away too much freedom and undermine common sense. People may need to use their GPS apps when they’re stopped at lights; a law-enforcement officer may not be able to tell at a distance whether you’re checking your route or your texts.

The best solution is cultural, not legal: Use sense and take care. Choose the phone or the wheel. You cannot have both. Teach that to your children.

Before you touch the gas, put down your phone. It could save your life. Or the life of a loved one. Or the life of that pedestrian you didn’t see.

 

Parents need to be the first ones to keep cell phones in pockets, in glove compartments, or in the back seat. You can check texts, calls, and emails when you arrive at your destination. And you’ll get there, so slow down!

 

(Google Images)