For most of us, life takes a new direction when we become a legally licensed driver. Add to that the summer break from school when you're young and it's like being set free … with some rules, of course.
You still need to obey the traffic laws. You still need to obey your parents and follow their instructions. You still need to act sensibly and be responsible behind the wheel.
The first two “needs” are legal matters. The third is just what it says: sensible, responsible.
Having more time for being out with your friends can be a big plus, provided you use it wisely and safely.
We all hear suggestions, recommendations, rules and regulations as we move into the world of the motoring public. Those aren't just words. Those are points from experienced individuals. They've been there, done that.
And they'll tell you that paying attention is critical. Distractions are dangerous.
I'll state it very clearly: there weren't as many things competing for my attention when I began driving as the young motorist has today. Yes, there was food in the vehicle, music, talking (often loud talking) and a few other considerations. But we didn't have cellphones, i-this-and-thats, or some of the other things I've seen young people driving around with these days.
As someone who is on the road most every day, I've seen some incredible things. As someone who lives near a high school, I've seen young drivers leaving the campus and traveling through the neighborhood too fast, too erratic. Often, they have an electronic device in their hand.
By the numbers
Now, with summer break here, the amount of young driver traffic has increased significantly, especially with the annual increase in the number of new drivers.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials say the number of crashes and related injuries, and fatalities involving teen drivers and passengers are most likely to occur during the summer break, most often between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The safety administration says 11 percent of drivers ages 15 to 19 who were involved in a fatal crash reportedly were distracted at the time. In Oklahoma, the statistics show that distraction by use of electronic devices is a particular concern among young drivers.
In 2007 and 2008, the most current full figures available, drivers in the 16 to 25 age group were reported to be in crashes involving distraction by an electronic device more than drivers in the three age groups 26 to 35, 36 to 45 and 46 to 55 combined.
Distractions from other factors in 2007 and 2008 resulted in 4,320 drivers in the 16 to 25 age group being in crashes, higher than any other age group.
There were 10 fatal crashes in 2007 in Oklahoma involving a driver distracted by an electronic device; 13 in 2008. Keep in mind that most of the time, these were self-reported. The safety administration said “crash reports are done by law enforcement officers at the scene and do show when a driver is distracted by an electronic device or by other factors”.
By the way …
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, as part of the Decide to Drive campaign, developed a Wreck-Less Checklist that includes the following tips:
• Before starting your car, set your phone aside, put on sunglasses and other accessories, fasten your safety belt, move reading material out of reach, pre-load CDs or MP3 playlists and adjust radio volume level, enter an address in the navigation system, or review directions.
• Pull the car over in a safe area any time there is a distraction that needs your attention.
• Do not eat or drink, apply makeup, polish your nails, or change clothing while driving.
Those steps can help you avoid dangerous distractions.
Enjoy your week and drive safely.