Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

Death By Text

The Dangers of Teens Texting and Driving

Sixteen year old Elizabeth was running late for a fun filled evening with her friends. She excitedly ran out the door and hopped in the car. She fastened her seat belt and cranked the engine. "Maybe there won't be much traffic and I can make up some time" she thought. As she raced down the highway, her phone started to ring - she had a text. She rambled around in her purse and found her cell. It was Calli "Where R U?" Ugh, Elizabeth sighed she responded "L8, B Rt There". She started to put her phone down and heard a horn and screeching tires. She looked up but it was too late, she smashed into the car ahead of her. Pain shot through her entire body, everything went black and she struggled to gasp her final breath...

Unfortunately, stories like this are becoming all too common.  Texting and driving can lead to accidents, injuries and even fatalities. Far too many teens are texting while driving, not that they don't have enough distractions (tune selection, phone calls, not to mention, actually watching the road!). In fact, one in four teens admitted to texting while driving. Statistics now say that texting while operating a vehicle is more dangerous than driving under the influence!

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The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI, 2009) studied drivers operating their own vehicles for a distance of more than six million miles. Texting was not studied in those operating cars, but texting while driving a truck increased the risk of accident by a stunning 2320%. Dialing a cell phone while driving a car increased risk of an accident by 280%. So, one can conclude that it's not a good idea to be using your cell while operating a vehicle.

Researchers also found that, when texting, one's eyes are off the road for enough time to travel the length of a football field while going 55 miles per hour. The study states that time not looking at the road is what contributes to the highest number of accidents. Below are a couple of recommendations by VTTI.

• Texting should be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers.

• All cell phone use should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers. VTTI's research has shown that teens tend to engage in cell phone tasks much more frequently and in much more risky situations, than adults. Thus, their studies indicate that teens are four times more likely to get into a related crash or near crash event than their adult counterparts.

A link to the VTTI report is listed below in the sources section.

So, what can you do to make sure your teen understands the implications of texting while driving?

1. Watch AT&T's "Don't Text While Driving" video in the sources section, with your teen and discuss the implications of driving while texting. Warning: This is a very descriptive video. The message is powerful, moving and may potentially change the way you view the use of a cell phone in a vehicle.

2. Write a "Contract" with your teen detailing your expectations and rules for driving. If your teen doesn't abide by the rules then the punishment is simple, they lose the keys. Harsh yes, but lives are at stake.

3. Check out the "tiwi" in the source section. This is a cool electronic device that helps you monitor and control your teens driving behaviors.

4. Make your cars a "No Phone Zone". Unless, your teen is in "Park" the phone should not be in use. Make a pledge to end using the cell while operating a vehicle, sign it and post it for your family to see. Let this pledge serve as a reminder that safety comes first.

5. Live by example. Studies have shown that kids watch what parents are doing. You set the stage for following the same rules that you are asking them to follow. On a personal note, after researching information on this blog, I too, will be doing things a lot differently. I despise the saying "Do as I say, not as I do." Back to basics "Practice what you preach."

6. Don't ride with people who are texting and driving. They can kill you.

Due to the studies by VTTI and other institutions, many states are banning cell phone use in a moving vehicle. Check out the "Governors Highway Safety Association" link under sources for an extensive table of states cell phone and texting laws. See what the law is in your state.

As the paramedics and emergency personnel cleaned up the wreck, Elizabeth's phone started ringing in the background.  It was Calli, "OMG U R SO L8!  Where R U?"... 

Please spread the word, don't text and drive.

Sources:

1. AT&T Don't Text While Driving Documentary
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DebhWD6ljZs&feature=player_embedded

2. Governors Highway Safety Association: Cell Phone and Texting Laws by State
http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

3. The tiwi - http://www.tiwi.com/

4. New Data from VTTI Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Accessed: September 13, 2009.
http://www.vtti.vt.edu/PDF/7-22-09-VTTI-Press_Release_Cell_phones...

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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