A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Teen distracted driving leads to crashes

Driving distractions, including texting, talking on the phone and even eating, can lead to a number of consequences, like serious injuries and even deaths. One distraction that many teens commonly know of is the use of cellphones while driving, a major issue that many don’t take very seriously.

Research done by Edgar Snyder and Associates says that approximately 660,000 drivers attempt to use their phones while being behind the wheel. Even with the most experienced drivers, having eyes off the road can lead to crashes and accidents.

Even knowing the consequences, many students still find themselves unable to keep their phones away while behind the wheel.

“Honestly I am very easily distracted by my phone,” said senior Juan Hernandez. “As soon as I get a text I must open it. I must.”

Most teenagers start driving around the age of 16 or as juniors in high school, and in many cases, they pay little to no attention to the serious matter of driving and using their phones. Hernandez does not stand alone in his need to look at his phone.

In fact, according to Teensafe, 69 percent of U.S. drivers between the ages of 18-64 admitted to using their phones while driving.

While some teens, like Hernandez, have been lucky enough to not get into big trouble while scrolling and driving, others have not been so fortunate.

According to CBS News, in 2015, 17-year-old Carlee Rose Bollig was charged for the deadly crash that killed a father and his 10 year old daughter. CBS reports that evidence shows that Bollig was sending a text message when she ran a red light striking the car where the younger girl and her father lost their life.

The National Counsel reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year, and nine percent of teenagers 15-19 are involved in phone-distracted collisons.  Law enforcement has been trying to lower these numbers by enacting.

In Maryland and Washington, if drivers are spotted using a cell phone for any reason, whether talking on the phone or texting, there is a fine. The first violation is a fine of $75, and for a second violation, the fine is $125. If anyone under the age of 18 receives a violation it may result in a 90 day licence suspension.

Cell phone companies are also hopping on the trend of getting people off their phones while driving by providing alternatives to texting. A driver could take a couple minutes before driving off to turn of their phones.  Additionally, on smartphones, one available option is putting the phone on “Do Not Disturb” and that will keep phones silent from any call or text messages while driving.

Additionally, on the latest iPhone updates, if the “Do Not Disturb” option is turned on and the phone is synced to the car’s system, it will send an automatic text message that notifies the person that the person is driving, making he/she unavailable to answer the phone at the moment.

And studies show these features are working. According to an article published by TechTimes, a recent survey by insurance company EverQuote found that the ios 11 feature has actually helped reduce driving distractions. The study also shows that 75 percent of participants claimed that the feature made them a safer driver   

With features like these, the roads may become a little safer overtime, considering even the most distracted drivers admit to the risks.

“Texting and driving is never good,” said Hernandez. “A lot of people can end up hurt.”