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Teen Drivers: Teenage Nighttime Fatalities

It has been widely reported recently that number of fatal automobile accidents has decreased within the last 10 years nationwide. That is a trend all Americans should try to maintain throughout the next decade and beyond. However, new research conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute discovered that while the number of fatalities as whole declined the percentage of fatalities that occurred at night has increased over the last decade, particularly with teenagers.

The results of the study clearly portray the increasing hazards of nighttime driving for American teenagers and American drivers in general. According o the Texas Transportation Institute's report, the percentage of nighttime fatalities among 16-19 year old drivers increased 10 percent nationwide from 1999-2008. The percentage of nighttime fatalities for driver 20 and older increased 8 percent during same time period.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute the percentage increase for drivers age 20 and older can be attributed mainly to incidents of alcohol impaired driving. However, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not causing the rise for younger drivers. In its report the institute, which is part of Texas A&M University, named driver distraction as the likely cause of the increase. Specifically, the pointed to driver distraction caused by talking and texting on cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The data used in the study was obtained form the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Nighttime driving can be more dangerous than daytime driving in general because of decreased visibility and possible delayed reaction times due to driver fatigue. These factors are even more dangerous to inexperienced teenage drivers. Unfortunately, it's impossible to combat these inherent factors. This leaves removing the distraction as the only possibly option to ensure safety.

This day in age everyone relies on their cell phones. Parents probably wouldn't feel comfortable with their teenager driving without one. In case of an emergency most parents would want their teen to be able to call for help. However, most parents also want to make sure their kids aren't being distracted behind the wheel.

In recent years many states have passed laws aimed to make teens stop texting and/or talking while driving. For example, In 2009 Texas Legislature passed a law forbidding drivers under 18 from making cell phone calls and texting while driving for the first 12 months after they get their licenses. In reviewing the Texas GDL Laws, new drivers can receive their learners permit at 15 and need to hold it for six months before getting their driver's license. In addition, they require 20 hours of supervised driving before they are able to drive on their own. At that point, Texas GDL laws allow new drivers to have no more than 1 passenger younger than 21 and nighttime driving restrictures require new drivers to not be on the road between the hours of 12:00 midnight until 5:00 a.m. Most important, Texas does not allow cell phone or text messaging during the intermediate state of their GDL Laws.

While these laws are helpful in the battle to end distracted driving amongst teenagers; a citation, or the threat of one, is not going to physically stop teens from using their phones behind the wheel.

However, parents can now have the best of both worlds. They can ensure their children aren't using their phones behind the wheel without having to take their phones away. Many cell phone companies are offering applications that prevent texting and calling while the car is in motion. The application's software relies on the phones GPS system to determine if the car is in motion. The software then stops the user from sending text messages and receiving calls. While the programs aren't an absolute fix (for example a teen could text at a red light or stop sign), they are a helpful tool for parents. When these applications are coupled with the laws in place its possible to combat this dangerous driving habit of America's teenagers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I decided to do something about teen distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me last fall by a texting driver. That incident changed me but I don’t hate texting. The way I see it, that would be like hating nightfall – its coming no matter what. 72% of teens text every single day - some over 3000 times a month. The texting drivers I spoke with, including teens and truckers, all said that laws and Big Brother type software devices that "lock down" their phones would not deter them at all. They feel their civil liberties slipping away. So I built a tool called OTTER for the individual to help manage their texting on their terms.

OTTER is a comprehensive text management system for the home, office and certainly, the highway. It has GPS based Parental Control Feature for teen drivers, a GPS Mode for adult who choose to use it and an Auto reply with unlimited customized responses. We are getting 4.5 to 5 star rating from the tech community and great response from teen groups and safety organizations. We have heard of teens and business people alike using OTTER to schedule their own "texting blackout periods" so they can get some focused work done without feeling disconnected from their social network. If a someone uses OTTER like this, then we think they will see the benefit of OTTER's road safety features. We are not going to stop until change hits our roads and not just our laws. Please give us your feedback.

Erik Wood, owner

May 24, 2010 at 8:53 PM  

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