It’s summer and the livin’ is easy. I love this time of year – it’s my favorite, bar none. Summer time brings warm, carefree memories of childhood, and slows everyone’s life down a bit for the here and now. In short, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t feel that it’s probably the best time of year.
Well, almost no one. There is a group of people who don’t think happy, carefree thoughts when summer comes to mind. Care to guess who they might be? Auto and driver safety experts, that’s who. Why? Because many car safety experts view the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day to be the “100 Deadliest Days of the Year for Teenage Drivers.” Did you know that every day in the U.S., over 10,000 teenagers turn 16? That means that approximately every day, roughly that number of teen drivers joins the U.S. driving population. That does far more than clog the roads and highways: It fills them with inexperienced drivers who are notorious for irresponsible and distracted driving habits.
Here in this state, the number of Massachusetts distracted driver accidents is increasing at an alarming rate. As a Route 128 Massachusetts teenage driver car accident lawyer, I see this problem very frequently, and it’s disturbing. Today’s teenagers were not raised in any other environment than the hyper-connected, (often neurotically so) world that we live in. Resultantly, they actually think it’s “normal” and “OK” to drive while tethered to a Smartphone – talking and texting while driving. Blame some of the less-responsible cell phone companies (though no one can really blame AT&T – you’ll see why below); blame families with little teenage discipline, blame society at large. There’s plenty of it to go around.
Admirably, a Massachusetts auto insurance company, Arbella Insurance, has stepped up to the plate to try and tackle the problem more aggressively. Arbella has creatively developed a program called “Distractology 101.” It’s a crash course driver-training school that places teens into a driving simulator that recreates how distractions like Smartphone use and texting, produce tragedy. The simulator produces several scenarios that result when a driver is using a Smartphone – and most of them are quite frightening. Students learn that just reaching for a Smartphone creates a distraction lasting 4.6 seconds. How much distance can a car travel in over 4.6 seconds? Over half a football field. Better that teen drivers see the terrible accidents like that in a simulator, than in the real world when it’s too late. My hat is off to Arbella. They deserve applause for this innovative teen driver education program. Other extremely helpful resources for teen drivers – and their parents who should monitor their kids’ driving and cell phone use habits – is http://focusdriven.org/get-the-facts; and http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Pages/CognitiveDistraction.aspx.
Aside from the local activity on this important issue here in Massachusetts, one of the major cell phone carriers, AT&T, has also very admirably led the way on this issue on a national level. AT&T’s anti-texting campaign, “No Text Is Worth A Life: It Can Wait,” is located at ItCanWait.com. Over 200 organizations have joined with AT&T to support this campaign. What can you do individually to change the deadly environment of texting while driving? Two key things: 1) STOP texting while driving; and 2) Show the world that you mean it by taking the pledge and signing up at ItCanWait.com. This is not some “feel-good” PR campaign. The life you save may be your own child’s (or yourself.)
The biggest tragedy behind Massachusetts distracted driving accidents, is that they are so completely preventable. Using a cell phone while driving is, to quote a movie title, flirting with disaster. (But the real-world results of Massachusetts teen driver accidents is no comedy.) A distraction of just one to two seconds can mean tragedy beyond words. As a Massachusetts distracted driver accident lawyer, I see the painful results all the time. My message to parents of Massachusetts teen drivers: Establish a policy with the teenage drivers in your house: “If you want the keys, you turn the phone OFF when you’re in the car. One violation of that rule, and you won’t get the car for six months.”
Strict? Sure. Wise? You bet your (teen’s) life on it.