Teens take an active role against texting and driving

August 28, 2012 12:00 AM

A recent survey conducted by State Farm and Harris Interactive found that young adult passengers speaking up about texting while driving makes a difference in teen driver behavior. Nearly four in five teens said they speak up and point out a driver's distracted behavior as a passenger.

Over 90 percent of teens admit to doing multiple things while driving such as talking or texting on the cell phone, according to Dosomething.org. Further, teens have the lowest seat belt use of all drivers. Wearing a seatbelt and getting regular car tune ups can help increase the safety of all those in the car.

"When I'm in a car with my friends or family, I say, 'Hey, don't do that. I’ll text for you.' I'm the designated texter. And they always stop driving distracted. You never know what can happen in the blink of an eye. Texting doesn't just endanger the driver but the passengers and the cars around you too," Navea Frazier, 18-year old Pennsylvania native, told State Farm.

A prime example of this is the landmark case of Aaron Deveau, an 18-year old from Massachusetts, who was convicted of homicide as a result of texting while driving and will serve a year in prison, according to CNN. The teen was texting and driving prior to a 2011 crash that fatally injured Donald Bowley, 55, of Danville, New Hampshire, and seriously injured Bowley's passenger. 

"It was very promising to see so many teens voice their concerns about this issue and see that the drivers listened to them and took action. Research tells us that texting while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. More education and conversations need to occur so teens understand that no one can handle driving distracted," said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm.

Not all states have laws against texting while driving, and those that do often have fines that are too low to be a real deterrent. USA Today reports that the fine in California is $20, $25 in Kentucky, and $30 in Iowa for a first offense. That's close to the price of a night at the movies or dinner. Teens expressed to the news outlet that tougher penalties for those caught texting while driving and more police enforcement would be a deterrent.

Further, many teens are learning first hand how dangerous texting while driving can be by doing it. About 25 teens participated in Allstate's Teen Safe Driving Challenge in Detroit focused on raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. Teens drove through a closed course set up with blue cones and intermittently received text messages from instructors to which the teen drivers responded. The teens were then given individual assessments that illustrated how poorly they performed while being intentionally distracted.

As it seems most teens do not think they will get into an accident their first year of driving, despite research proving the first year is most dangerous, State Farm is launching a program utilizing a different approach to cut down on teen texting and driving. The program, Celebrate My Drive, uses a supportive and positive approach to teen driver safety since most teens tune out scare tactics. The program launches September 15 nationwide with thousands of teens and parents, high school officials, safety advocates, local law enforcement and government leaders coming together to honor this year's class of new drivers.

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