Cheyenne – Statistics show that nearly 3,100 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were injured across the nation in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver during 2010.
With more than 196 billion text messages sent and received just during June of last year alone, plus numerous other activities that can take a driver's attention from the road, distracted driving continues to plague all drivers, but particularly teen drivers, in Wyoming and across the country.
That is one big reason the Wyoming Highway Patrol is joining with Safe Communities, WYDOT Highway Safety, Cheyenne Police Department, Laramie County Sheriff's Department, "CLICK Kids", the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other partners across the nation for National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 14-20, to remind teens about the risks of the road and to think twice before driving distracted.
All drivers can be distracted by cell phones, adjusting the radio, using a navigation system, CD player, or MP3 device, but unfortunately, it is our most inexperienced drivers—teens—who are the most likely to put themselves and others in harms way by driving distracted.
Despite the fact that 32 states—plus the District of Columbia—have passed legislation outlawing all cell phone use by novice drivers and 44 states have ban texting while driving by novice drivers, research shows that drivers under the age of 25 are two-to-three times more likely than older divers to send text messages or emails while driving. In 2010, 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as being distracted at the time of the crash.
Texting while driving takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field, blind at 55 miles per hour. Moreover, driving while using a cell phone may reduce the amount of brain activity associated with driving by up to 37 percent.
While all distractions are dangerous, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. And in the State of Wyoming, it's against the law.
Teens are getting the message, but we must continue to educate them on the risks of distracted driving to keep new drivers safe and to remind seasoned drivers of the law and the risks.