Teen safety on roads: Two steps forward, one back

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two steps forward, one step back?

A report released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that while teens are reducing some risky behaviors behind the wheel, they’re quick to embrace another: texting and driving.

The research shows marked improvement in the number of teenagers wearing seatbelts and a marked decline in the number of teenagers driving while under the influence – both of which are trends moving in the right direction. And as a result, the number of teens who died as a result of motor vehicle crashes has fallen by 44 percent since 1997.

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Yet other dangerous trends are surfacing. Distracted driving – such as texting while driving – is proving a growing threat. The same research shows that 32.8 percent of the students surveyed had texted or emailed while driving a car or other vehicle on a least one day during the past month.

That means nearly one-third of the teenage drivers on the road admit to being distracted by texts or emails. And that’s a frightening thought.

Groups such as the Pike County Teen Safe Driving coalition, which works to educate teens about the dangers of unsafe driving, can make a difference. Through programs and brochures, thumb bands with reminders, social media marketing campaigns and more this group is trying to reach the teens and reinforce the message of driving smart – and driving safe.

Government, as well, is stepping up, passing laws that ban texting while driving in the state of Alabama and states and municipalities across the nation.

We can only hope that by aggressively addressing the dangers of distracted driving we can reverse the trend and help keep our kids – and ourselves – safe on the roadways.