Every year about 6,000 teenagers, aged sixteen through twenty, die in motor vehicle accidents. According to Allstate Insurance spokeswoman Megan Brunet, of those 6,000 deaths, eighty-seven percent of them are caused by driving distractions. There are many different types of driving distractions and they can all be categorized into three main subgroups; visual, which would be taking your eyes off the road, manual, would be taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive, which is taking your mind off what you are doing.
Some examples of distractions that a driver will encounter would be using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming themselves or using a navigation system and music player in the vehicle all while driving. These are just a few of many things that can cause a driver to be less aware of his or her surroundings and slow their reaction time. Those are two of the most important skills needed to safely operate a vehicle. Driving distractions are not the only variables that cause motor vehicle accidents. Many drivers today, especially young drivers, are very reckless behind the wheel.
They don’t obey traffic laws, and for lack of a better term, drive like “ass holes. ” Many of them get what I call the “need for speed. ” Speeding is definitely an exhilarating feeling and for some people it gives them a “rush” or a feeling of euphoria. For these people its much like a high from a drug and their drug is traveling at high rates of speed. If you have ever been in a car on the highway that gets up to and over 100 miles per hour, you will know what I’m talking about when I say its definitely an exhilarating feeling. Speed is just one of the many hazardous driving habits that plagues many young drivers today.
The other two main causes of series auto accidents are road rage and driving impaired, either alcohol or drug related. If we were able to limit distractions while driving and educate youths on dangerous driving behaviors, there would be a drastic decrease in the number of youth deaths in our country from motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of youths ages fifteen through twenty in the United States. According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 7,460 youths died in auto accidents in 2005. Twenty-eight percent of the drivers in those accidents were at or above the egal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of . 08. That BAC of . 08 is the legal limit for persons of age 21 or older. All of these drivers were underage and drunk while driving the vehicle and on most occasions were not the only life taken by their irresponsible actions. For some reason or another drivers who are impaired are less likely to wear a seatbelt. According to the NHTSA statistics for 2005, seventy-five percent of those drivers who lost their life in drunk-driving accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. Drunk drivers for some reason or another get the “need for speed” even more so than people who are not intoxicated.
On top of their slowed reaction time and ignorance of traffic laws, on many occasions they don’t wear a seatbelt. It is almost as if they are rolling the dice and they are wagering their life to have some fun. Not only are they putting themselves in a life threatening situation, but there have been many instances where drunk drivers collide into sober drivers and end up killing them as well. In the state of Pennsylvania, if you kill another person while driving and you are intoxicated, you will be charged with vehicular homicide which carries a mandatory minimum five year jail sentence.
In the end, if you end up surviving the crash, your life will be in shambles for the next couple years to the point where you might wish you had just died in the accident yourself. There is only one other driving habit that comes close to driving intoxicated and that is using a cellular device while driving. According to a study done by the University of Utah in 2006, using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a BAC of . 08. Cell phone use while driving is becoming a large epidemic in our country and has been outlawed in some states and hopefully will be across the nation in years to come.
I had a classmate in high school who died in a single car crash at three in the afternoon on a sunny Wednesday afternoon right after he got out of school. The police were able to check his phone records to see that he had viewed a Blackberry message just 25 seconds before the time of the crash and saw that his phone had a unfinished message in the phone that had not been sent yet. They determined that he took his eyes off the road to view and send this message and that was the cause of the crash.
Ever since that day I have always put my phone in my center console while driving. I came to the conclusion that waiting until I get from point A to point B is more important than answering calls and texts. It is not worth risking my life and my friends can wait until I am out of the car to get a response. Every year thousands of young people are losing their lives due to events that could have very easily been prevented. We need to educate the youth of our nation on the effects of driving distractions and good driving habits. Drivers in the U. S. o not understand that operating a vehicle is a privilege, not a right and they do not take it seriously enough. When you are behind the wheel of a car, you are not only responsible for you life and lives of the passengers with you, but of the other drivers on the road as well. If we could enforce laws that would encourage safer driving habits and limit driver distractions, we would safe thousands of teenagers every year. Vehicle accidents would no longer be the number one killer of youths in America and our roads would be a much safer place to drive.