The number of Virginia teens likely to text and drive has dropped from 2013 to 2015, according to the latest Youth Behavioral Risk Survey.
The statistics show that 31 percent of Virginian teens are now likely to text while driving, compared to 34 percent two years earlier, the survey, issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows.
Nationally, the percentage of teens likely to text and drive is 41 percent, the CDC survey reports.
Despite the decline, texting and driving remains deadly.
The National Safety Council reports that 11 teens die every day while texting and driving. Twenty-one percent of teen drivers are the victims of fatal car accidents because their phone or other electronic device distracts them. And, teens are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes when talking or texting on a cell phone.
According to American Automobile Association statistics, 94 percent of teen drivers are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, but 35 percent do it anyway.
“I was texting and driving a couple of days ago, and I really should not have been because many people get into car accidents,” Khari Chase, 17, of Virginia, said. “And the fine is just costly.”
In Virginia, texting is banned for all drivers and it is considered a primary offense – which means police can pull you over if they suspect you of texting while driving. The fine is $125 for the first offense and $250 for subsequent offenses, according to the state’s motor vehicle website.
The Partners for Safe Teen Driving reports that younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Not surprisingly, they text more than any other age group, the organization said.
The group outlined several steps parents can take to ensure that their teenage children are safe drivers:
• Lead by example and do not text and drive.
• Discuss the risks and responsibilities of safe driving.
• Have your teen agree to a family contract with penalties if he or she is caught texting while driving.
The AAA Foundation completed an eight-year research project in 2016 on teen drivers, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Iowa. Over the past five years, more than 5,000 people have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period starting at Memorial Day, when teen crash deaths historically climb, and ending on Labor Day, according to the AAA Foundation.
The research – using crash videos from in-car dash cameras – found that in the moments leading up to a crash, teens were:
• Talking or attending to other passengers in the vehicle: 15 percent of crashes.
• Talking, texting or operating a cell phone: 12 percent of crashes.
Attending to or looking at something inside the vehicle: 11 percent of crashes.
“Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver” said Jurek Grabowski, Research Director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This new research shows that distraction continues to be one of the leading causes of crashes for teen drivers. By better understanding how teens are distracted on the road, we can better prevent deaths throughout the 100 Deadliest Days and the rest of the year.”
Micaiah McCullum is a student at South County High School in Virginia.