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Teen Texting and Driving are a Bad Mix
last updated:
Fri, 8/27/2010 11:15 AM

Susan A. Helms, R.N., M.A.L.S., director of injury prevention and Safe Kids at Le Bonheur, says she is frequently asked by parents what they can do to be sure their teenagers are safe drivers.

First, it is important to know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Traffic accident rates for 16- to 19- year old drivers are higher than those of any other age group. Between 2004 and 2008, 3,100 youth ages 10 and older were treated at Le Bonheur Children’s because of a motor vehicle accident; seven died.

What causes teenage drivers to be such risky drivers?
There are many reasons, but talking and texting on a cell phone while driving ranks very high on the list. When texting and driving, it forces you to look down at your phone causing you to swerve, miss stop signs, red lights, or even pedestrians.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers who are texting can be more than 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.

Most teens engage in distracted driving even though almost all are aware that it’s dangerous, according to a survey of nearly 2,000 male and female teen drivers ages 16 to 19 conducted in May 2010 by the American Automobile Association and Seventeen magazine. Almost nine in 10 teenage drivers (86 percent) have driven while distracted, even though 84 percent say they know they shouldn’t, the survey found. More than one-third of the respondents said they nearly crashed because of their own or someone else's distracted driving.

The survey also found that teens who text while driving sent an average of 23 text messages monthly while driving. A quarter of all teens admit to texting behind the wheel. “Teen drivers are some of the most vulnerable drivers on the road due to inexperience, and adding cell phones to the mix only compounds the dangers, “said Helms.

The Department of Transportation, Seventeen magazine and AAA are trying to convince teens to change their habits by launching a contest that will run from today until Sept. 10 to raise awareness among teens about the dangers of talking and texting while driving. The contest challenges teens to develop a catchy, creative anti-distracted driving video to promote safe driving, which they can upload and share with other teens.  The best video will win a $2,000 prize and be featured on Seventeen.com, AAAExchange.com, Distraction.gov and at the Department of Transportation's Distracted Driving Summit on Sept.21.  More information about the contest can be found here: seventeen.com/twosecond.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
50 N. Dunlap Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38103 • (901) 287-KIDS