The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that over 3,000 people died and 400,000 others were injured in car crashes involving a distracted driver in 2010 - the highest percentage of whom were teen drivers.
As new drivers, teens are more susceptible to crashes than the rest of the driving population. Inexperience, combined with an ever-growing menu of distractions can cause them to lose focus on the road and their surroundings.
The enhanced technology and functionality of today's cell phones is a major cause. Twenty-six percent of teens admit they've at least sometimes used their cell phone to take pictures or videos while driving, 18 percent say they have gone online, and 15 percent say they've updated their Facebook or MySpace status through their phones while behind the wheel.*
It's not just teens who are involved in this extremely dangerous behavior. The Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has found that drivers are not well-calibrated to the distracting effects of a hand-held or hands-free cell phone conversation. Most of us have no idea how distracted we really are when we use these devices. A 2009 Virginia Tech study concluded that texting while driving takes a driver's focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds - enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.
The way to prevent these crashes, whether from texting while driving or other distractions, is very simple:
And remember, anything that takes your eyes from the road is a distraction.
* Liberty Mutual/SADD Teen Driving Survey, 2009