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Curbing Dangerous Distracted Driving by TeensSouth Nassau Communities Hospital Community Education, Pediatrics offer tips

Distracted driving -- whether texting, talking, playing loud music, or some other non-driving activity -- is the number one killer of American teens, according to a host of studies, including those from State Farm Insurance and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Chair of the Department of Pediatrics Dr. Clara E. Mayoral offers tips to parents to help teens behind the wheel avoid accidents and injuries that can result.

Statistics from a Pew Research survey show just how pervasive the problem is: one in four American teens of driving age say they have texted while driving, and half of all teens ages 12 to 17 say they’ve been a passenger while a driver has texted; half of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a phone while driving and 40 percent say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put them in danger.

“Teens seem to have a compelling need to stay connected, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Young drivers are especially vulnerable because they simply don’t have the driving experience and often the focus to stay safe,” said Dr. Mayoral. “Driving while distracted is a very hazardous practice that not only can result in injuries to drivers, but also passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians.” Dr. Mayoral offers the following advice to parents:

  • Ban talking and texting while the car is moving:
  • Parents should be just as adamant on this as they are about drinking and driving.
  • Lower the volume and eliminate multi-tasking:
  • Teens don’t realize that loud music and other activities measurably lower their ability to concentrate and react.
  • Pull over to text or talk:
  • More and more drivers are getting the message that it’s simple and safe to pull over to make that call or text.
  • Set a passenger limit: The less activity in the vehicle the better – a simple way to ensure this is to establish a limit of having only one or two passengers.
  • Buckle up for safety: Simple as it is, buckling up should be part of every safety discussion and should be a habit from the very first time behind the wheel. It goes without saying that parents should continue to counsel their children to avoid speeding, driving recklessly, and of course, drinking/drugging and driving. Lastly, parents should set an example with their own driving and should never text or talk with a handheld device.

    Of course, handheld cell use and texting are illegal in New York and many other states, offering yet another good reason to curb those activities. Records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles show that in 2010 New York issued almost 332,000 tickets for cell phone use while driving and 3,200 for texting while driving.

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