National Teen Driver Safety WeekSome feel that texting while driving is the new drunk driving for a generation used to always having a cell phone in their hands. While about one quarter of fatal teen car accidents involve underage drinking and driving, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a car accident than drunk driving.

During National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 20-26, it’s important to remember that car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths. Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills and lack of driving experience. Add to that distracted driving and you get 1,830 drivers age 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes in 2017, the leading cause of death in that age group.

Here are just a few statistics showing why texting and driving are a lethal combination, for drivers of any age:

  • Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free device, delays a driver’s reaction time by as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08%.
  • Research has found that dialing a phone number while driving increases your teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times.
  • It takes approximately 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message. At 70 mph, that’s like driving the distance of 1 ½ football fields with your eyes closed.
  • Texting while driving increases by 400% a driver’s time spent with their eyes off the road.
  • 4,637 people died in car crashes in 2018 due to cell phone use.
  • Including the cost to people’s lives, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion — or 15 percent — of the overall societal damage caused by motor vehicle crashes.
  • Cell phone use behind the wheel reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.
  • High school students who reported frequent texting while driving were less likely to wear a seat belt, more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, and more likely to drink and drive.

But teen drivers distracted by their cell phones isn’t entirely the fault of the teen. Studies have shown teens receive the most calls from their parents when driving, more than general calling patterns would suggest. And 72 percent of teens say they feel pressured to respond immediately to texts, notifications and social media messaging, even while driving and even though they know it’s dangerous.

Here are some tips for parents to have a role in helping teens develop good driving habits.

  • Talk to your teenager about how you feel and the possible consequences of texting and driving.
  • Lead by example. Show your teens you can drive without texting or using your cell phone. Make a practice of putting your phone completely from view when driving.
  • Avoid calling your teen while they are driving.Ask your teen to call you before leaving one place and after arrival at the next destination.
  • Encourage your teen to use an app to block incoming texts or calls. Some apps will even send an auto response back, letting the sender know you are driving.

Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it can be expensive. States and insurance companies have stepped up with penalties for texting while driving. Insurance penalties for distracted driving have grown by nearly 8,000%, in addition to already high insurance rates for teen drivers. Only three states (Arizona, Missouri and Montana) do not have texting and driving laws, with penalties for ranging from $20 to up to $500, and some resulting in criminal misdemeanor charges.

While no one ever expects a car accident to happen to them, accidents do occur. Teaching your teen safe driving habits is important for the safety of your teen, passengers and other drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in a crash due to the negligence of another driver, seek advice from an experienced personal injury attorney. With offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Lehigh Acres and Port Charlotte, attorneys at  Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz can be reached by calling 239-500-HURT.