Though Americans are driving more than ever, the number of motor vehicle fatalities continues to decline, including the involvement in fatal crashes among 15 to 19-year-old drivers. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for these young drivers.
As U.S. Secretary of Transportation, I led the fight to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving among both youth and adults. Distracted driving and inattentive behavior affects drivers, passengers, and non-vehicle occupants alike whenever the driver diverts their attention from the task of driving. There are many distractions for drivers including texting, using a mobile phone, eating and drinking, other passengers, navigation systems, adjusting the radio, CD or MP3 player and other equipment, as well as grooming. Coupled with inexperience, young, novice drivers who are distracted are at an even greater risk of being in a crash.
This special Journal of Adolescent Health supplement brings the important issue of driver distraction and young drivers into focus. The articles presented cover a variety of the influences on young drivers’ distractibility and safety as well as the important influence of parents, peers, and technology. While there is no single (simple or quick) solution to this problem, this research can lay a substantive foundation for additional debate and informed and effective policies to address the complex problem of distracted driving among young drivers and the larger driving population as a whole.
Distracted driving kills and injures thousands of people each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated in 2012, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver and 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes including 511 vehicle occupants ages 20 and under.
As the former Secretary of Transportation, I encourage traffic safety professionals, driver’s education instructors, community groups, law enforcement, elected officials and others to work together to continue the strides we’ve made toward reducing distracted driving and keeping our nation’s roadways safe. And, as a parent and grandparent, I urge others to set an example for their teens when you’re driving and to talk to your teens about the importance of giving driving their full attention every time they get behind the wheel.
Join me in working for a safer America.
The Honorable Ray LaHood
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*