Text messaging

Distracted Driving Awareness Month Increases Attention, Debate

April is in full swing and with it has come Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Being observed throughout the United States, the month serves to raise general awareness and point the attention of lawmakers and automakers towards safer regulations to make the roads safer. Aside from the numerous events going on throughout the country, heavy debate has been sparked on the automakers side, as in car technology has now become a large topic of discussion.

Talks in Washington D.C. have involved major discussion over the impact that built in gps and stereo systems are having on the attention span of drivers these days. Lawmakers are calling for the vehicle manufacturers to tone down their entertainment. GPS modules and entertainment/stereo systems are certainly continuing to grow, becoming more complex along with the times.

Just as many are pointing towards automakers to help minimize risk in these times, they car companies are looking for accountability from technology developers. Certainly smart phone developers and portable GPS makers share some responsibility for the impact their products have had, but options are somewhat limited from a lawmaking standpoint.

Automakers are seemingly determined to work out efforts, however. It was reported that they are attempting to work with cell phone developers in an effort to fight cases of distracted driving. The National Transportation Safety Board has called to have more integration with cell phones into the cars, allowing for more hands free use, and eventually a positive impact on the road.

It will take some response from the cell phone developers, however. Right now, these companies have done little to come to the table and discuss possible options. Hopefully the increasing cases of distracted driving will highlight the need for these developers to work on a plan to help minimize future road problems.

Laws relating to distracted driving are heavily different throughout the United States. Around 35 states currently have a full ban on text messaging, while nine have a full ban on the use of hand held cell phone devices. Just recently, the city of Chapel Hill, NC made news by becoming the first town to enact a ban on cell phone use while driving.

The impact of the recent Chapel Hill law, going along with Distracted Driving Awareness Month taking place this month will be far reaching from adults to teenagers. There are a number of states where stricter laws may be necessary to minimize distracted driving cases in the future, while attention will certainly come upon automakers and technology developers as well. All in all, the awareness month in 2012 serves to increase attention to one of the great dangers today and will continue to do so in coming years.

teen car crash

Teen Death Rates Decline In States With Strong Graduated Driver License Laws

A 2006 study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that showed Graduated Driver License Laws (GDLs) reduced teen death rates by an average of 11% has been backed up by at least two states that have shown a significant decline in their teen fatality rate after enactment of tough new GDLs.

New Jersey’s strong GDL laws will become even stronger with new GDL regulations as a result of recommendations by the Teen Driver Study Commission. The new laws or regulations are:

  • No plea bargains for GDL holders (teens can’t plea bargain away points for traffic violations). Teens who accumulate 3 or more points, must attend a 4-hour MVC Probationary Driver Program and be monitored for 12 months. Any accumulation of points during the monitoring period will result in a 90 day license suspension.
  • Use of a decal on the vehicle to identify drivers who hold a learner’s permit or provisional license.
  • 11 PM curfew for all drivers under the age of 21 who hold a permit or provisional license.
  • Limit of passengers to just one – regardless of family affiliation.

The Illinois Secretary of State introduced figures that showed a 53% drop in teen deaths between 2007 and the first 9 months of 2009. Illinois sanctions on drivers during the Initial Licensing Phase include:

  • Two moving violation convictions occurring within a 24-month period will result in a minimum one-month driver’s license suspension. Suspension length is determined by the seriousness of the offenses and the driver’s prior driving history. An additional driver’s license suspension will result for each subsequent moving violation following the initial suspension.
  • Any moving violation conviction that occurs within the first year of licensure will result in a six-month extension of the passenger limitation, which allows no more than one unrelated passenger under age 20.
  • Suspended drivers are required to attend a remedial education course, may be retested and must pay a $70 reinstatement fee.

Parents who don’t live in a state with a strong GDL law, can impose their own strict restrictions. If you are not sure what the GDL law is in your state, visit your state’s web site or: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/teenagers/qanda#teenagers–graduated-driver-licensing


Teens Texting More Than Ever

A recently released study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project shows that teens are texting more than ever and, it seems, they prefer texting to phone conversations. The findings don’t bode well for motor vehicle safety groups who are trying to spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving. The greater portion of the increase in texting by teens falls in the age group of those just beginning to drive.

The study’ authors conducted phone interviews in both in English and in Spanish with a “nationally representative sample of 799 teens ages 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States” in 2011. They found that texting is the “dominant daily mode of communication between teens and all those with whom they communicate.” Here is some of the information revealed in the study:

  • “Overall, 77% of those ages 12-17 have a cell phone. The percentage of younger teens ages 12 and 13 with cell phones has declined slightly since 2009
  • The frequency of teens’ phone chatter with friends – on cell phones and landlines – has fallen
  • The typical American teen is sending and receiving a greater number of texts than in 2009. Overall, 75% of all teens text.
  • The median number of texts (i.e. the midpoint user in our sample) sent on a typical day by teens 12-17 rose from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011.
  • Much of this increase occurred among older teens ages 14-17, who went from a median of 60 texts a day to a median of 100 two years later. Boys of all ages also increased their texting volume from a median of 30 texts daily in 2009 to 50 texts in 2011. Black teens showed an increase of a median of 60 texts per day to 80.
  • Older girls remain the most enthusiastic texters, with a median of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.
  • 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of daily communication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).
  • The heaviest texters (those who exchange more than 100 texts a day) are much more likely than lighter texters to say that they talk on their cell phone daily. Some 69% of heavy texters talk daily on their cell phones, compared with 46% of medium texters (those exchanging 21-100 texts a day) and 43% of light texters (those exchanging 0-20 texts a day).
  • Some 23% of all those ages 12-17 say they have a smartphone and ownership is highest among older teens: 31% of those ages 14-17 have a smartphone, compared with just 8% of youth ages 12-13. There are no differences in ownership of smartphones versus regular cell phones by race.”
driving too fast for conditions

Managing Speed: Tips for Teen Drivers

A 2009 analysis of speeding-related crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that following the speed limit is not enough to prevent a crash when conditions warrant a reduction in speed. The study showed that in speeding-related crashes that caused one or more injuries, 26% of the crashes were contributed to be exceeding the posted speed limit, while 74% were due to driving too fast for conditions. In property-damage-only crashes where speed was a contributing factor, 18% of the crashes were due to exceeding the posted speed limit and 82% of the crashes were contributed to by driving too fast for conditions.

Drivers should reduce their speed:

  • immediately when it begins to rain and when driving through standing water. Roads become very slippery just after the rain begins, because the rainwater mixes with oil on the road that has been dropped from passing vehicles. Driving too fast on wet roads can result in skidding, when the vehicle loses traction with the road and the driver loses control of the vehicle. Never drive through standing water if you do not know how deep it is.
  • in foggy or smoky conditions. Fog and smoke make it difficult to see ahead, and reducing speed reduces stopping distance.
  • before a curve. Too often, drivers realize that they are moving too fast when they are already in the curve, but lowering speed in a curve results in a loss of traction that could cause a skid. Always reduce speed before entering the curve.
  • in construction zones. Lower speed limits are usually posted in construction zones, but the new speed limit may not be low enough, especially for new drivers. The distraction of all the activity in the work zone and changes in the road surface can cause more difficulties for drivers who are inexperienced.
  • around school zones and playgrounds. Children are often present when the lowered speed limits are not in effect. Children are unpredictable and may walk, skate or bike into the road without checking for traffic. Be extra careful around school zones!
  • at night. Visibility is reduced at night; street lights and the vehicle’s headlights cannot entirely make up for this.
Survivor's Guilt

Survivor’s Guilt: Teens in Motor Vehicle Crashes

A single car crash in North Carolina last month led to the death of the driver’s twin sister.

Another news report from the past month regarding a teen who had been killed in a single vehicle car crash the teen’s girl friend was quoted as saying:

“Cameron was drinking and we got into a fight. I told him to find another ride home. I said, ‘Get out of this car, you’re being disrespectful,'” Talia said, gasping between tears and raising her arms to the sky. “Why didn’t I drive him home?”

Survivor’s guilt, which is most often associated with victims of combat, can occur in anyone who has survived any type of trauma whether they were directly involved or not. The guilt from wishing they had done something different that may have averted the event can lead to long-lasting psychological problems. The most common form of psychological trauma resulting from survivor’s guilt is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can result in life-long, debilitating problems for the victim. This is why high schools, who experience the death of one of their students, make extra counselors available to the student body immediately after the event.

If your teen has been involved in a crash in which someone died or was horribly injured or even if they were weren’t involved but were closely associated with the victim, you will need to help them through the grief process and you should be on the lookout for the warning signs of PTSD.

Grief – The grief process is something everyone who has experienced the loss of a friend or loved one must go through and it occurs in specific stages;

  1. Denial and Isolation.
  2. Anger.
  3. Bargaining.
  4. Depression.
  5. Acceptance.

Guiding your teen through all of the stages to acceptance, can be a long and painful process. If the guilt is left unresolved, it can lead to a multitude of psychological issues.

Don’t try to tell your teen how they should act or feel – No one can truly understand how a grieving person feels and trying to tell them their emotions are wrong or unhealthy can only compound the problem. Instead, sympathize and let him or her vent their feelings. Holding in or suppressing one’s feelings can be harmful.

Suggest that they express their grief in a creative way – One example of a creative expression of grief is the Facebook page mentioned in the first article of this newsletter. Writing a song or a poem, creating a memorial to the victim are all positive expressions of grief. Getting involved in programs to prevent future tragedies can give your teen some sense of control over events.

Watch for signs that your teen may be “numbing out”
– One common expression of grief is to try to suppress the feelings by turning to alcohol or drugs. This is an especially dangerous form of expression and can only make matters worse.

Withdrawing from friends and events – Your teen my stop engaging in their usual activities or back away from friendships. This part of the denial and isolation stage is designed to prevent any future relationships and thus, the chance of losing someone else that may be close to them. To make up for the lack of relationships, your teen may turn to alcohol or drugs or withdraw into video games. Their school performance may suffer.

Grief Triggers – There will be times when reminders of the loss of their friend will be especially acute; such as anniversaries of the event, birthdays, school proms, graduation. Be aware of these triggers and be prepared to help your teen through the grief process all over again.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk – Trying to put the past behind you by ignoring the fact that the event happened won’t make it go away. Talking through the issues is the best form of grief expression. Be there for your teen, allow them to talk it out and listen without judging.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling – Unresolved, PTSD can lead to severe depression, paranoia, isolation, and drug dependence. If left unresolved, these issues can affect future generations. Be on the lookout for warning signs and understand that the issues may be too big for you to handle. Seek professional psychological help.