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Young drivers don't see danger in distracted driving

One of the problems with distracted driving is that many drivers do not recognize that many things they do behind the wheel are problematic. According to a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports, a significant number of young drivers do not recognize the danger of texting or talking while behind the wheel. As a result, the Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports are teaming up to educate young drivers on the dangers of using a cell phone while in the driver's seat.

In 2009, almost 5,500 people in the United States were killed and nearly 500,000 people were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving. Around 18 percent of fatal distracted driving car accidents were caused by cell phone use. According to the Consumer Report survey, two-thirds of surveyed drivers under the age of 30 admitted to driving and using a hand-held cell phone. One-third of similarly aged respondents said they text and drive. Among those who admitted to texting and driving, around 64 percent said they did not view the combination as a problem.

The non-recognition of texting and driving as a problem by young drivers is especially concerning because car crashes are especially lethal for young people. Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers in the United States, and teenagers are three times as likely to get into a car accident as other driver age groups. Texting and driving, no matter the age group, multiplies the chance of getting into a car accident by 23 times. When coupled with the general risk of teenage car accident, the car accident risk for teenagers who text and drive is staggering.

Because of the deadly combination, the DOT has created a video series called "Faces of Distracted Driving" to educate young drivers on the problems of road distractions. The series can be viewed on the agency's website or on YouTube. Additionally, a free guide on distracted driving for parents and teachers is available on the department's website, distraction.gov.

Source: The Washington Post, "Campaign seeks to get teen drivers off their cell phones," Ashley Halsey III, 3/8/11

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