Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths among teenagers and there are now more things than ever before to distract teen drivers from keeping their attention on the road. Mick Mulhern, with the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says most crashes involving young motorists could easily be prevented.
“Of course, the most obvious is the use of cell phone, either as a phone or texting while driving,” Mulhern says. “A lot of the other types of distractions have stayed the same, whether it’s listening to the radio, talking to friends in the car, putting on makeup, reading books or eating.”
This week, a 17-year-old central Iowa girl was cited for texting while driving. Polk County Sheriff’s deputies said the girl was sending a text and failed to see a bicyclist ahead of her car. The 42-year-old bicyclist was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but has since improved.
Mulhern, who travels to schools around the state, says most teenagers are aware that texting and driving is illegal, but that’s not always stopping them from using their phone while they’re behind the wheel.
“You know, it’s a learned behavior and they see their parents using their cell phones while they’re driving,” Mulhern says. “So, I try to address the modeling behavior…mentors and adults can lead by example to try to help reduce the number of crashes and deaths as a result of distracted driving.”
In 2011, 12 people between the ages 16-17 were killed in traffic crashes in Iowa. This week is designated as National Teen Driver Safety Week.