Teenagers & Distracted Driving — A Fatal Combination

April 2014 was the first-ever National Distracted Driver Awareness Month. It its wake, some troubling statistics have emerged about the growing epidemic of texting while driving in the United States. Launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation to highlight the dangers of distracted driving, the campaign estimates that in 2012 alone, distraction-related auto accidents claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people and injured over than 400,000 more.

Each day, 9 people die and another 1,100 are injured as a result of distracted driving. Not surprisingly, the number one distraction is cell phone use behind the wheel. Alarmingly, 14% of the crash injuries, including 10% of the fatalities, are caused by teens.

Teen drivers cause the most distraction-related accidents

Studies of distracted driving have revealed that most teens – about 80% – have cell phones. The problem is many do not think twice about using a cell phone while driving.

When it comes to teen drivers, distracted driving statistics are cause for concern:

  • One out of every 5 thinks that there is no problem with texting while driving
  • Over half text while driving
  • Nearly half answer emails while driving
  • Almost a quarter surf the web and check social media while driving

Today’s teens are reacting to unrealistic expectations – 90% expect to receive a reply to an email within 5 minutes. This leads them to rush to respond to every new message notification bell, endangering themselves and other drivers.

Why texting while driving is so dangerous

On average, texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field while blind.

Texting is much more dangerous than simply talking on a phone while driving because it involves more types of distractions – manual, visual, and cognitive – all at the same time. And contrary to popular belief, dozens of studies have shown that talking with a hands-free device is no safer than a handheld one.

It may seem like smart phones can do it all, but touch screens make distracted driving more dangerous. The touch screens make mistakes, requiring more concentration on the message, instead of the road, to fix the errors.

Texting while driving is still not banned in all states

Forty-one states have banned texting while driving, but only 10 states have completely banned the use of a cell phone while driving. Nine states have yet to pass any law against texting while driving.

New York has banned both using a handheld device and texting while driving; doing either comes with heavy penalties and fines.

The penalties are more severe for teens and newer drivers – a first conviction of texting while driving comes with a 120-day suspension and a second conviction carries a one year suspension. This is on top of five points on their driver’s license and fines. In acknowledgment of National Distracted Driver Awareness Month, NY police cracked down on distracted drivers, targeting those texting from behind the wheel, from April 10-15th.

We at The Sanders Firm urge everyone to drive safely and device-free. We hope that initiatives like National Distracted Driver Awareness Month will reduce the number of distracted driving accidents in NYC, Long Island and everywhere across the country. Resources

  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. DOT Launches First-Ever National Distracted Driving Enforcement and Advertising Campaign, https://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2014/DOT+Launches+First-Ever+National+Distracted+Driving+Enforcement+and+Advertising+Campaign
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation (Distraction.org), Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/faq.html
  3. Long Island New York Guide (LongIsland.com), Distracted Driving Awareness Month – Shocking Stats & Tips for Staying Safe, https://www.longisland.com/articles/04-05-14/distracted-driving-awareness-month-statistics-and-tips-for-staying-safe.html