Car accidents are the leading cause of death among young people, both here in Missouri and throughout the United States. So, what factors place our young drivers at such an increased risk? The Centers for Disease Control's annual National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which assesses health-risk behaviors among young people, sheds some light on the issue. Approximately 15,000 teens throughout the country participated in the survey, and the results were a mixed bag of good news and bad news. In this post, our Joplin personal injury lawyers discuss the survey's findings.
While teen drivers have shown "significant process" in areas like seat belt usage and drunk driving, distraction (particularly texting and emailing) remains a prominent risk factor. "We are encouraged that more of today's high school students are choosing healthier, safer behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, and are avoiding behaviors that we know can cause them harm, such as binge drinking or riding with impaired drivers," said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, in a news release. "However, these findings also show that despite improvements, there is a continued need for government agencies, community organizations, schools, parents, and other community members to work together to address the range of risk behaviors prevalent among our youth."
Significant Findings of the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
• Over the last 20 years, the number of teen drivers who never or rarely wear seat belts has dropped dramatically (from 26% in 1991 to 8% in 2011).
• Within the same time period, the number of teens who admitted to riding with a drunk driver also declined (from 40 to 24).
• Only 8% of teen drivers said they had driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol within the last 30 days, compared to 17% in 1997.
• About 1 out of 3 teens (32.8%) said they had sent at least one text message or email while driving within the last 30 days.
In 2012, U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called texting and driving "an epidemic" when he released a new "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Blueprint outlines a practical, comprehensive strategy to reduce distracted driving accidents throughout the country. "We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a news conference.
Secretary LaHood also announced that Delaware and California will receive $2.4 million in federal funding for pilot projects [link to] designed to discourage distracted driving. These projects will be modeled after recent initiatives in Hartford and Syracuse, which proved to be extremely successful: texting and driving declined 32% in Syracuse and 72% in Harvard following those efforts.
NHTSA Distracted Driving Facts & Statistics
• In 2010, at least 3,092 people died in car crashes involving driver distraction, meaning distraction played a role in about one out of 10 fatal accidents.
• In a NHTSA telephone survey conducted earlier this year, respondents "acknowledged few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text," with over 75% of drivers "[reporting] that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips.
• Ironically, despite this willingness, nearly all respondents - approximately 90% - said they "considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or emails [to be] very unsafe."