Distracted Driving Summit Teaches Teens to Drive Safely

It’s with tired feet, but a happy heart, that I am writing this post about the National Organizations for Youth Safety’s (NOYS) 2011 Distracted Driving Summit that concluded last week.

For those of you not familiar with the event, the Distracted Driving Summit brings together teens from across the country to learn about the most current distracted driving research. The group then studies how to use a wide range of communication tools to persuade drivers to hang up their phones when they get behind the wheel.

Why host a meeting focused on this one issue? According to Seventeen magazine nearly 9 in 10 teenage drivers have engaged in distracted driving behaviors such as texting or talking on a cellphone—despite knowing that their actions increase their risk of crashing.

The online survey of 1,999 teens ages 16 to 19, conducted in May 2010, found that 84% were aware that distracted driving behaviors increase their crash risk; yet 86% have engaged in those behaviors, including texting and talking on cell phones, eating, adjusting radios, driving with four or more passengers and applying makeup.

The survey confirms what we already know. Teens—and adults—engage in distracted driving. What we need to do now is help to educate youth about the dangers of distracted driving. And that’s what our Distracted Driving Summit is all about.

Our summit participants became safety ambassadors, applying what they learned by creating programs to bring back to their schools and communities to help reduce distracted driving among their peers.

During the Summit, I had the opportunity to work with summit participants from  Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Their passion and dedication to preventing distracted driving is remarkable, and with their help, we can decrease risky driving behaviors. The youth leaders shared with me just a few of the tips they will be taking home to their friends—and I hope that you will take a minute to read these and share them with your teens and adult drivers:

  • Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
  • Allow voice mail to handle your calls while driving and return them at your convenience.
  • Pull off the road to a safe area or ask a passenger to make or take a call for you if urgently needed.
  • Use a hands-free device if available.
  • Suspend conversation during hazardous driving conditions.
  • Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations while driving.
  • Never take notes or look up numbers while driving.

Consumer Reports shared that 16% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2009 were distracted while driving. Help prevent the loss of more lives by supporting distracted driving prevention programs in your community and set a good example when driving by keeping safe driving your main focus.

Guest blogger Sandy Spavone is the Executive Director of NOYS and works to promote youth empowerment and leadership. She builds partnerships that help to save lives, prevent injuries, and promote safe and healthy lifestyles among all youth.