Distracted Driving the cause of recent deadly accidents?

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distracted-drivingChannel 4 reports on recent deadly accidents in Northeast Florida and how distracted driving could be to blame.  One dead, two severely wounded and one in jail — and the victims are all teens.
The issue of teenagers behind the wheel is coming up once again after the two cases in St. Johns and Clay counties.Channel 4 has been looking into the issue of teens behind the wheel and found that there are all sorts of distractions in cars that keep drivers’ eyes off the road.  This weekend, Austin Clark Norman was killed and his brother was injured in a Clay County crash when they struck a tree. The teens’ grandmother, Marsha Norman, said Austin’s brother could have easily been killed too.Just two days prior to the Norman brothers’ accident, another teenage driver in St. Johns County was charged for a crash from last year where Bartram Trail High School student Aubrey Thompson was critically injured.

Channel 4 met with Sgt. Dylan Bryan of the Florida Highway Patrol, who teaches courses to teenagers about driving dangers. Bryan said it goes beyond texting and that it can be pervasive among young drivers.”Primarily what we see are a lot of distractions, whether it’s passengers in vehicles, texting, cellphone, eating, drinking, radio, listening to music,” Bryan said.  Bryan said the FHP applauds the state Legislature for criminalizing texting while driving last year, even though it’s only a secondary offense, meaning you have to be pulled over for something else to be ticketed for it. Bryan said when he pulls up on a teenage crash he notices a different response than with a person who’s been driving for closer to 20 years. “That goes with experience,” Bryan said. “The older drivers tend to recognize what could’ve been a hazardous situation. With the younger drivers, we don’t have that light bulb effect with how severe that could’ve been.”
Investigators said in the Clay County crash neither teen was wearing a seat belt, something investigators said they believe could have saved a life.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.  The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. On this page, you’ll find facts and statistics that are powerfully persuasive. If you don’t already think distracted driving is a safety problem, please take a moment to learn more. And, as with everything on Distraction.gov, please share these facts with others. Together, we can help save lives.

Key Facts and Statistics

  • 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.
  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.
  • A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving

Related Stories: Texting while driving law in Florida questioned5 to Drive campaign for teens

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