A new partnership has been announced to help educate teachers, parents and teens in an attempt at preventing young drivers from distracted driving, a risk involving texting and cell phone use that has reached “a deadly epidemic” level in the US.
A joint news release by the US Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports notes a new poll shows that
younger drivers are more likely to use handheld devices while driving -- and less likely to view them as a danger.
Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said: “Distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on America’s roads, and teens are especially vulnerable because of their inexperience behind the wheel and, often, peer pressure,” according to the media release (pdf). "Behind the statistics are real families who have been devastated by these tragedies. We're pleased to be working with Consumer Reports to raise awareness and help communities fight this problem," he added.
Beginning this week, a free guide, Distracted Driving Shatters Lives, is available for parents and teachers at the Department of Transportation (DOT) website here and at Consumer Report’s site here. The National School Safety Coalition will distribute copies of the guide to schools and volunteer groups.
Additionally, DOT and Consumer Reports have sent a public service announcement to TV stations across the country and a Consumer Reports video set to air next month in many of America’s retail stores will highlight the guide, expected to reach 100 million people.
Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union (CU), nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, hosted LaHood at CU headquarters this week in a panel discussion that involved safety experts from schools, law enforcement and family groups.
“It only takes a moment of distraction to cause a tragedy. No text or call is worth a life. We know that educating people about the risk of distracted driving works. This partnership is devoted to spreading the word about the dangers of distracted driving and specific steps you can take to make a difference,” Guest said in the news release.
The release includes results of a new survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center and reveals alarming numbers on how widespread distracted driving among America’s younger drivers.
It found that, of those responding under 30 years old, 63 percent had used a handheld phone while driving in the past 30 days, and 30 percent of those responding in that group had texted while driving during that same period. Those numbers compare to the 41 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in respondents 30 years of age or older.
Among the younger group, only 36 percent thought distracted driving was an issue to be “very concerned” about, and only 30 percent felt a handheld phone used while driving was “very dangerous to use.”
Overall, 64 percent of respondents reported seeing other drivers texting with a handheld device in the past 30 days, while 94 percent said they had seen drivers talking on a mobile phone. A dangerous driving situation related to a distracted driver was reported by 58 percent of the group.
Behaviors related to distracted driving had been reduced or stopped by 78 percent of the overall group. Of that group, 66 percent reported doing so after learning about the dangers.
The survey of 1,026 respondents was conducted in November 2010.
According to DOT, nearly 5,500 people were killed in the US in 2009 from accidents related to distracted driving, with 18 percent of those fatalities involving cell phone use. Another half million were injured from in distracted driving-related accidents.