By Arthur Elk
I’m a parent of four and I remember well those years when my children were first learning how to drive. Driving is such a huge responsibility and can be such a dangerous thing to learn how to do. As a parent, I was very concerned about my children when they were 16 or 17 and driving or riding with their teen-age friends.
A new report shows that deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers increased in the first half of 2012, a sobering reminder for all parents of teen-age drivers.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, deaths of teen drivers jumped 19% in the first six months of last year, more than double the percentage increase for overall traffic deaths.
There were 240 highway fatalities of 16- and 17-year-old drivers through the first half of 2012, up from 202 for the same period a year earlier. Overall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projects that all traffic deaths were up 8% for the period.
If the numbers hold true for the second half of 2012, it would mark the second straight year of increases in deaths of teen drivers. In 2011, road deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers rose 3%, ending eight straight years of declines.
Allan Williams, a safety consultant who compiled the GHSA report, says the spike in teen fatalities is likely caused by the improving economy and the leveling off of safety benefits from graduated driver licensing programs.
While those may both be factors, I also believe that distracted driving, caused by texting or using mobile devices, is also a major factor in the increase. It is too easy for a young driver to send a quick text to a friend or try to look something up on their smartphone. For an inexperienced, young driver, those seconds of distraction can easily prove deadly.
If you are the parent of a teen driver, continue to emphasize the importance of not texting and driving and encourage your young driver to keep their eyes on the road, not on their smartphone or their friends. Communication is the key to making sure they know that texting and driving is illegal and dangerous.
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