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Cell Phone Use is Making Nighttime Driving Even More Deadly for Teen Motorists

According to a Texas Transportation Institute report, from 1999 to 2008 there has been a 10% increase in the proportion of deadly nighttime traffic crashes involving US teen drivers. This increase can be largely attributed to cell phone use and text messaging that, combined with the risks already posed by driving in the dark, can create “a perfect storm,” says Senior Research Specialist Bernie Fette.

Granted, distracted driving, poor visibility, and slower responses due to fatigue can negatively impact drivers of any age group regardless of the time of day or night. However, add to these hazards the fact that teen drivers are less experienced, easily distracted to begin with, and not as skilled as their more experienced adult counterparts when it comes to avoiding becoming involved in a car crash, and its easy to understand why teenagers’ car crash fatality risk at night has gone up.

Currently, in Massachusetts only school bus drivers are banned from using cell phones while driving and the state doesn’t have a ban on text messaging. This means that unlike in a number of other US states, where new drivers (if not all motorists) are not allowed to talk on the phone and drive at the same time, even the most inexperienced drivers are allowed to text/talk on the phone and drive here. This makes them a danger not only to themselves but to others.

It doesn’t help that, per a 2009 study from the Pew Research Center, cell phone use among teenagers has increased 58% since 2004. 52% of teens admitted to talking on the phone and driving at the same time. 34% said they’ve texted while driving. Also, Fette notes that because today’s teens grew up talking on the cell phone and texting, they wrongly believe that they are “experts” and can easily talk/text and drive at the same time.

Many teens can’t resist the urge to text. According to NPR, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood considers the habit of texting while driving to be an addiction.

Massachusetts Distracted Driving Accidents
Talking on a cell phone takes the motorist’s mind on the road, and texting requires that a driver take at least one (if not both) hands off the steering wheel. Both activities can make it hard for the driver to pay attention or react quickly during an emergency. Not only can the driver end up in jail for injuring or killing a passenger, the occupant of another vehicle, or a pedestrian during a Massachusetts car crash, but the motorist can also be sued for Boston personal injury.

Cell phones raise teen nighttime driving risks, The Washington Post, May 6, 2010
Teens, Cell Phones and Texting, Pew Research, April 20, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” Pledge, Oprah
Distraction.gov