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May 24
1860 - Colonel Thomas F. Mitchell arrives in Soledad Canyon [story]
T.F. Mitchell


Teens are among the drivers most likely to be distracted and the most likely to end up in a crash. California Highway Patrol is teaming up with national leaders during the week of April 4 to 10 for California Teen Safe Driving Week to draw attention to this serious problem.

The California Highway Patrol, Impact Teen Drivers, California Office of Traffic Safety and national traffic safety leaders are collaborating in April to focus on the serious issue of teen driver safety.

The partners behind California Teen Safe Driving Week emphasize that many of the collisions involving teens are preventable. “Teen drivers are distracted about a quarter of the time they are behind the wheel,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “The possibilities for distraction are only getting worse. This should be a sobering thought for any parent, or anyone else with teens in their lives. We all must be the best example we can for our newest, most vulnerable drivers.”

The month of April is also recognized as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. In California, the CHP, OTS, ITD, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as law enforcement throughout the state, are working together to focus on education as well as enforcement. A press conference scheduled for April 5th in Inglewood, Calif., will feature leaders from all the traffic safety partners to highlight their concerns about distracted driving.

A study by the American Automobile Association Foundation presents chilling conclusions about teen drivers: Every day, car crashes end more teen lives than cancer, homicide and suicide combined. Based on miles driven, teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. Although teens represent seven percent of the licensed population, they are involved in almost 20 percent of all fatal crashes.

The AAA Foundation also found that distraction due to cell phone use appears to be much more prevalent than is reflected in official government statistics. “Most people do not reveal they were distracted by social media or texting before they crashed. Therefore, we know distracted driving is grossly underreported in official reports,” Commissioner Farrow said. “Driver education and awareness are increasingly important, which is why the CHP works with Impact Teen Drivers to promote California Teen Safe Driving Week.”

One of the best tools available to combat teen distracted driving is parental role modeling. The driving behaviors and attitudes of parents are the best predictors of a teen’s driving behavior. “Teens have been observing their parents’ driving behavior for 15 years, so if the parents are speeding down the road while talking on the phone, sipping a latté, and steering with their knee, why would we expect teens to drive any differently?” Kelly Browning, Executive Director of ITD, said. “Parents who actively teach their teens safe driving behaviors and make good choices behind the wheel themselves have teens who make better driving choices.”

Nationwide, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated additional 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013, NHTSA has reported. NHTSA has also found that at any given moment during the daytime, an estimated 660,000 drivers were using hand-held cell phones. In 2013, ten percent of all drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes.

“New teen drivers already had two strikes against them with their lack of driving skills and susceptibility to in-car peer pressures,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “The explosion of teens’ almost constant mobile device use during the last decade has perilously upped their distraction level. This is a problem that no family can ignore.”

Preliminary data from the National Safety Council indicate that for the first time in over 50 years, traffic deaths increased eight percent in 2015 despite decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements. This increase indicates that no amount of technology, safety features, or enforcement can protect us from ourselves. Instead, our choices behind the wheel make the biggest difference when it comes to our safety and the safety of everyone on our roadways. We need to keep both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road, and, most important, our mind focused on one thing—our driving.

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