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New Study Identifies Increased Risks of Distracted Teen Drivers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), auto accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that the fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19 is three times higher than for drivers who are 20 years or older.
Unfortunately, teens continue to represent a high percentage of auto accident fatalities and injuries year after year. Inexperience, speeding, failure to use seat belts and propensity for risk-taking contribute to the higher rate of crashes. And now, a study of 3,000 teenage drivers in four states conducted by Oregon State University researchers found that teen drivers are increasingly more distracted while behind the wheel, a fact that significantly adds to the risks.
Any Distraction is Dangerous
Most teens understand the dangers of texting while driving, even if they continue to do it. However, the study found that teens did not recognize the dangers involved in other distractions, such as eating, drinking, reading a GPS, changing the music selection, talking on the phone or reaching in the back seat for an item. More than one-fourth of the teens in the OSU study admitted to changing clothes or shoes as they drove. Some actually did homework while behind the wheel. These activities are distracting and dangerous.
Experts recommend teens engage in classroom simulations of various distractions to raise awareness about distracted driving. The interactive programing may work better than the traditional teacher instruction so teens think twice before engaging in distracting activities while driving.
Texas Laws Against Texting While Driving
Drivers who are younger than 18 years old and novice drivers — those with a driver’s license for less than six months — are prohibited from using a cell phone and texting while driving in Texas. All drivers are prohibited from using electronic devices in school zones. Upon expiration of the ban period, many teens may incorrectly believe that because it is not illegal, using an electronic device while driving must be ok.
Several legislative bills creating a statewide ban have been introduced and have either failed or were vetoed. An anti-texting bill is currently before the Texas legislature in the 2015 session and has been tentatively approved. In the meantime, some cities are taking action through local ordinances. One of the latest is Austin, which enacted a ban on all handheld devices while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle. And among the other 40 Texas municipalities with local bans are Arlington, Bedford, Denton and Grand Prairie here in the Metroplex and major cities including Corpus Christi, El Paso, and San Antonio.
Berenson Law Firm Supports A Statewide Ban
We represents victims of auto and truck wrecks and have seen the heartbreak a family suffers when a teen is seriously injured or killed in a car crash. Banning texting while driving is a simple solution to help curtail a tragic problem. That is why we advocate for a statewide ban and urge our governor to sign the law that prohibits cell phone use and texting while driving.