Distracted Teenage Drivers
When five high school cheerleaders from New York died in a car crash on June 28th, investigators had good reason to suspect the driver was texting while steering. Tragedies like this one prompted research into the number of teens who admit to texting while driving. The results will have you saying, “O-M-G!”
In 2007, AAA partnered with Seventeen Magazine to research the number of teenagers that send and receive text messages while also trying to drive a vehicle. Here’s what they found:
- 46% text while driving
- 51% talk on cell phones while driving
- 61% admit to “risky driving habits” in general
Knowing these stats, experts from England took the research to another level. Members of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) wanted to find out exactly how “distracted” young drivers were if they tried to text and drive at the same time.
They asked 17 drivers, aged 17-24, to pilot a driving simulator under three different circumstances: while texting, while under the influence of medicinal marijuana, and while at the legal alcohol limit.
Drivers who were legally drunk had their reaction time slowed by 12%. The reaction time of drivers under the influence of medicinal marijuana was slowed by 21%. But young drivers who were trying to send and/or read text messages found their reaction time lagged a full 35%!
Further, drivers who were texting at the same time had more trouble with keeping a safe distance between them and other drivers as well as drifting in and out of their own lane of traffic.
The director of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation claimed the research, “clearly shows that a motorist who is texting is significantly more impaired than a motorist at the legal limit for alcohol.”
And that’s coming from guys who drive on the “wrong” side of the road all the time!
You’ve no doubt seen teenagers do this. Coming home late one night from an extended weekend this past Labor Day, I drove with a heightened sense of awareness due to the normal increase of drunk driving around the holiday. For almost 40 miles of my return trip, the ebb and flow of traffic kept one teenage driver at or near my own car. While driving in the fast lane, he spent the majority of those miles steering with his left hand and texting with his right. Even when he fell a few cars back, or advanced a few ahead of me, his car was easy to spot; the interior of his Honda Accord was lit up by the bright glow coming from his cell phone screen.
And here I was thinking that teenagers using cell phones in Bible study was a bad thing!
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated for several years that the number one cause of death amongst teenagers is car accidents. Currently, only nine states have banned cell phone use while driving, but many other states have begun their own legislation.
You may want to conduct an interesting, if unscientific poll, in your own youth ministry. Pull your students together and ask them these questions:
- Have you ever ridden with a teenage driver who was texting at the same time? If yes, did you feel safe?
- Have you ever texted while driving?
- Do any of your parents have rules for you regarding cell phone use and driving? What are they?
- Do you think it’s safe to drive and text at the same time? Why or why not?
- How would you feel if you caused an accident by trying to drive and text (or talk) at the same time?
- Do you think cell phone use while driving should be banned? Why or why not?
- If a law passed in your city that bans any cell phone use while driving, how important is it to obey that law?
Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the issues in life the Bible speaks about in a “black and white” manner. Nonetheless, it’s a very important topic for teenagers to understand. In addition to encouraging parents to talk with their teenagers about this subject, you may want to be prepared to have conversations with teenagers, to show them the vast amount of responsibility they must take while driving, not only for themselves, but for others as well.
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.