Jason Epstein, founder of Teens Against Distracted Driving, speaks to KIRO 7 News about a tragic accident that King County deputies believe was caused by distracted driving. Jason discusses the legal status of looking at a phone while driving, and pleads with viewers to remember that nothing on your phone is worth looking at while driving. Our hearts go out to the family of Sherri White who have experienced such great loss and injury.
Teen drivers are statistically one of the riskiest categories of drivers on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers are three times more likely to die in a car crash than drivers over the age of 20, when statistics are adjusted for the number of miles driven. In the United States, more than 2,500 teen drivers die in car crashes each year, and nearly 300,000 are treated in an emergency room for their injuries. Many of these car crashes are due to the most common dangers that face teen drivers.
Lack of Experience Behind the Wheel
Experience makes a significant difference in ability to perform a task effectively and to respond properly to unexpected circumstances. For example, patients in a hospital are more likely to trust a surgeon with 20 years of experience than one who has only been working solo for a month. In the same way, teen drivers in their first year of having their license are much more likely to get in a crash than drivers who have been on the road for decades.
It takes time behind the wheel to develop instincts for what to do in specific situations and to develop a feel for how to handle a vehicle. Teens should get as many hours of supervised practice as possible before being licensed, to help them make the transition to driving on their own.
Most people think immediately of using a phone when they hear about distracted driving. It is true that phone use, especially when looking at and interacting with the screen, poses a major risk for all drivers. Teen drivers should never look at their phones while driving, and should follow all state laws about hands-free devices for phone use.
There are also other distractions in the car that can be just as dangerous as a phone. For example, adjusting radio stations can take a teen driver’s eyes off the road at a critical time. Eating can also be a distraction that takes a hand and attention away from the road. Lastly, talking to passengers is a risky distraction for teens, which is why many states have graduated licensing programs that prohibit driving passengers for a time after getting licensed.
Driving at Night
Teens who only drive themselves to and from school and other daytime activities do not face the same risks as teens who drive at night. After it gets dark, visibility is impaired and it is much harder to judge the speed and distance of other vehicles on the road. These factors increase the risk of crashes, which helps explain why 61 percent of teen crash fatalities happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Drowsiness also contributes to the danger of driving at night. Teens have a greater need for sleep than adults, yet many do not get enough sleep. Whether they are drowsy late at night or in the morning when driving to school, teens put themselves at risk when they drive while tired. Drowsiness makes it more difficult to focus on the road and causes impaired reaction time, which can lead to car crashes.
Drinking and Driving
All states now have zero tolerance laws that make it illegal for anybody under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood. Therefore, even one drink can make a difference and put a teen over the allowable threshold for driving. However, one in 10 surveyed teens report that they have driven after having one or more drinks at least once in the past month.
Driving under the influence of alcohol significantly impairs a teen’s ability to control the vehicle and to respond to other vehicles on the road. In addition, teens are less likely to wear a seatbelt when under the influence of alcohol, which puts them at risk of serious injury or death if they are involved in a crash.
Teen drivers can protect themselves and their passengers by avoiding each of these dangers whenever possible. Teens should never drive under the influence of alcohol and should never use a phone or other handheld electronic device while driving. In addition, teens should be aware of their inexperience and pay special attention to the road at all times to help avoid crashes.
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A high-ranking official in the Episcopal church has been charged with manslaughter in the death of cyclist Thomas Palermo. Prosecutors allege that Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland was sending text messages at the time of the collision, and her breath alcohol level was .22 percent, three times the legal limit.
Sharon J. Tillman, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said officials were aware that Cook had been drinking before the crash and had been texting while driving, but police requested that they withhold certain information.
“We were cooperating with police in their investigation throughout,” she said.
Cook previously pleaded guilty to a 2010 drunken-driving charge on the Eastern Shore in which she registered a 0.27 percent blood-alcohol level. In that case, police said, Cook was stopped while driving on the shoulder of the road with a shredded tire. An empty bottle of liquor and marijuana were found in her vehicle, police said. An officer wrote in a police report that she was so intoxicated that he ended her field sobriety test because he feared she might hurt herself.
Texting and driving is no joke. It kills and injuries thousands every year in America. Never drive under the influence, and never text while driving. It isn’t worth the cost.
By Taylor Renee Lee, Miss Vicksburg’s Outstanding Teen
October 9th, 2013. That was the day that I received my Mississippi issued intermediate driver’s license. I left my home alone for the very first time feeling bold and invincible. After driving for a few weeks, I began to notice the unpredictable driving habits of the drivers around me. Their carelessness could potentially harm themselves and other drivers. Upon my observation of this issue, I decided that I wanted to do something about it.
A few years before I started driving, I noticed that my mom would often dial numbers, change the radio station, and even eat while driving. For years she had been practicing these bad habits and one day I brought it to her attention. She had not even realized that she was distracted and wanted to make a change. That day, we made a pact that if she didn’t practice bad habits while driving, I wouldn’t. I eventually shared this conversation with my older brother and his wife, who were anxious to share this with their friends. This observation soon spread to many people in Vicksburg, in my home state of Mississippi.
Because of this small talk that I had with my mom, many adults approached me to share that they were practicing focused driving. I then realized that if my tiny voice could make an impact on adults, teenagers would listen to me also. When I decided to do the local Outstanding Teen Pageant, many people asked me what I was going to do for my platform. Avoiding distractions while driving was a perfect fit. I began talking to my friends around school, dance classes, and church about avoiding distractions while driving. While preparing for the pageant, I discussed the recent accidents and deaths caused by not paying attention to the road and did research on the statistics of distracted driving.
I came across the Teens Against Distracted Driving website while doing my research and found it very helpful. The statistics that I found were mind blowing! For example, did you know that distracted driving reduces your attention level to that of a person with a .08% blood alcohol concentration? .08% is the legal limit for sobriety while driving in many states, and if someone exceeds that level, he or she can receive a DUI. Finding this website opened my eyes to the factual dangers of distracted driving, and I feel that if other teenagers hear these facts, they will put the phone, drink, or lipstick down. During my year as Miss Vicksburg’s Outstanding Teen, I plan to speak at high school assemblies, church gatherings, and other citywide functions. Raising awareness is only the beginning of providing safer roads in America.
This is a can’t-miss, sobering look at the dangers of texting and driving from famous film and documentary director Werner Herzog. The short film shows how people’s lives were shattered in mere moments by distracted driving. You can watch the entire film below, or on YouTube:
A news story reveals that one in four accidents are caused by the use of cell phone while driving. Not only does texting while driving continue to be a problem among commuters, but commercial drivers are a growing hazard to the health and safety of everyone.
Drivers using cellphones fail to see up to 50% of the information in their environment, says David Teater, senior director at the NSC. And the risk of getting in crashes from texting is getting worse, he says. Texting is increasing in popularity inside and outside of the driver’s seat: One in three Americans favors texting over calling, according to a 2011 study by Pew Research Center, and Americans send an average of 41 texts a day (with those ages 19 to 25 sending an average of 110 texts a day).
The number of drivers texting or manipulating their devices increased from 0.9% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2011, while driver hand-held cellphone use remained steady at 5%, according to a survey carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One possible reason: Lack of enforcement. Drunken driving carries heavy fines and jail time, says Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA, but cellphone violations are treated more leniently. “Drivers know in their hearts and their heads that it isn’t the best idea,” he says, “but the odds of getting a ticket remain quite low.”
Despite the low enforcement, texting while driving remains one of the top causes of accidents for teen drivers.
In 2009, Vancouver man Antonio Celestine made national headlines when he struck his own math teacher, Gordon Patterson, who was riding a bike. Celestine was texting when he struck Patterson at considerable speed. The case gained national notoriety as a powerful reminder of the tragic consequences of distracted driving.
Now, just two months after finishing a three year sentence for manslaughter, Celestine has been arrested for more driving charges — driving without a license, attempting to elude, and taking a vehicle without permission. From The Republic:
Cellestine’s history wasn’t mentioned at the hearing. But its echoes still resonate in this southwest Washington city of 160,000. The Gordon Patterson Memorial Bike Ride has been celebrated for three years, and the high school where Patterson helped Cellestine graduate has a section informally referred to as the “Patterson wing.”
Before the crash, Cellestine and Patterson made an odd duo, one a failing student with a sizeable juvenile record, the other a beloved math and design teacher who taught church classes under the alias “Gordon the Science Warden.”
Cellestine had convictions for drugs, burglary and fourth-degree assault, and spent nearly a year in a juvenile detention center. Once free, he struggled to adjust to high school. But Cellestine credited Patterson with helping him pull through.
“If it wasn’t for Mr. Patterson,” Cellestine said at his sentencing in 2010, “I would never have finished my senior paper and graduated.”
In September 2009, Cellestine was 18 and finished with school. Patterson had finished class and, as he urged others to do, commuted home by bicycle. He’d had a scare a year before, his friend Sherine West told The Columbian newspaper in 2010, when a car struck him on St. Johns Road on his way home.
This time, Patterson was headed north on the same street when Cellestine happened to be driving behind him. Patterson was hit with such force that a police sergeant would later testify to collecting pieces of Patterson’s helmet from the street.
This tragedy is a powerful reminder of the danger texting and driving poses for society — driver and victims. The penalties for texting and driving have been increasing, with hefty fines, jail time, and revocation of driving privileges on the horizon. Additionally, as more bicyclists join the road, texting and driving is becoming an even greater public health hazard.
In addition to not texting and driving, students can be a vital part of the movement to end distracted driving. Get involved in your school or community.
Dylan Martin, the young Florida State race driver making a name for himself on the local and national scenes, was profiled in the latest issue of Inside Polk. Among his career highlights and personal story of becoming involved in racing, he gives a big shout-out to Teens Against Distracted Driving. Thanks, Dylan! From the article:
In tandem with having an influence on youngsters at the track, there are some special kids far from the track that also get Dylan’s attention. The young driver is a spokesperson for T.A.D.D. (Teens Against Distracted Driving), and he regularly speaks to kids about the dangers of texting and other negative behaviors while behind the wheel. This year he will speak at over 75 schools and hospitals, hoping to have a positive effect on kids and encouraging them to fasten their seatbelts in the car and wear helmets when on a bike.
“I’m not just a spokesman or a driver; if I can do this, they can, too,” Dylan said.
Read the full article on Inside Polk Magazine.
Teens Against Distracted Driving (TADD) most recently presented to the students of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, WA.
A big thank you goes out to: Diana Jones, the mother of Ashely Jones, for sharing her family’s painful story, Federal Way Police Officer John Stray for speaking about distracted driving laws, and every student and faculty member that attended.
You can read the article from the Federal Way Mirror here.
Are you a distracted driver? Take the quiz here.