Texting; a tempting, deadly distraction



October 9, 2012

One of the most common, tempting and deadly distractions for teens behind the wheel are cell phones.

One in four American teen drivers admits to texting while driving, and 40 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds say they have been in a car when a teen driver used a cell phone in a dangerous way.

Although teens and others may not realize it, any cell phone use, whether hand held or hands free, while driving is dangerous. In fact, researchers have found that it quadruples crash risk, according to teendriversource.org.

Just the act of dialing a cell phone increases crash risk by three times. In a naturalistic study of truckers, Virginia Tech researchers reported a 23-fold increase in risk of a crash or near crash when drivers were text messaging.

Hugoton High School has chosen to do something about the distracted driving problem that kills or injures thousands each year. The Distracted Driving Program, a division of Kramer Internationl, is coming to the Hugoton community this Friday.

The DDP is a six-hour high impact anti-texting distracted driving program. This huge multimedia event features “no holds barred” video presentations with two multi-million dollar texting and driving simulation experiences that, according to Kramer officials, is “like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

“Even an actual casket is displayed to drive home a permanent reminder of the life-changing impact of distracted driving,” said a press release from the company.

Frank Mitidieri, a senior consultant with Kramer, said the company does presentations like this in all of the 48 contiguous states and in other countries like Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.

As of May, 10 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands have instituted a hand-held cell phone ban for all drivers, with all but two of them making it a primary offense.

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, with all but three of them making it a primary offense. An additional five states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.

Recent research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that the first generation of all-driver cell phone ban laws was generally effective at reducing use of hand held cell phones while driving but not at reducing crashes. It is unclear why, and Mitidieri agrees that the laws do not make much difference.

“We lose more 16- to 21-year-olds by distracted driving than anything in the U.S.,” he said.

Mitidieri said he believes from the moment Hugoton students watch videos at the first 50-minute assembly of Friday’s school day to the last one of the day, lives will be changed.

“We are committed to educating as many people as will listen about the dangers of this serious, life-threatening practice through the use of cutting-edge technology and a no-holds barred attitude,” he said. “Our objective is to use every method at our disposal to bring home the shocking reality of the dangerous practice of distracted driving, which has eclipsed drunk driving as the number one safety concern of the driving public.”




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