On June 7, the Centers for Disease Control released the findings of the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is conducted in high schools across the U.S. every two years. The survey asks students about behaviors that have proven to pose health risks to teens, and for the first time ever, the YRBS included questions about distracted driving. The findings? Despite many prevalent distracted driving campaigns specifically aimed at teens, about 1 out of 3 teen drivers admitted to texting and driving within the past 30 days.
The YRBS results were released just days after a Massachusetts teenager received a prison sentence for causing a fatal accident while texting. Following a trial, 18-year-old Aaron Deveau was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but after considering Deveau's age and clean criminal record, the judge suspended a portion of the jail time. Deveau will serve a year of his sentence.
Teens are less experienced than older drivers, and more likely to take risks: there's no question that distraction compounds these existing crash risk factors. What's more, at this time of year, the threat is even greater. Statistically, the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the "100 Deadliest Days" of the year for teen drivers, because the daily number of teen crash deaths increases significantly during the summer months.
DriversEd.com offers these tips to help keep your teen driver safe during the summer and throughout the year:
• Start talking with your teen drivers about the importance of safety. Discuss the risks and responsibilities of driving, and help them understand what's at stake when they're behind the wheel.
• Set ground rules regarding the number of passengers they may carry (and what drivers they can ride with). While driver distraction is more commonly associated with cell phone use, passengers can also be dangerously distracting, especially for teen drivers.
• Limit the time your teen driver can spend behind the wheel during the evening hours. It is most important to limit the number of passengers during these nighttime hours as well.