For Teens, Texting and Driving Go Hand In Hand

Authorities are concerned about the new wave of drivers who have grown up with texting as their primary source of communication.

Would you drive the length of a football field on a freeway with a blindfold on?

That's what safety experts tell teens they are doing when they get behind the wheel and start texting.

These electronic messages are becoming more and more of a concern for law enforcement authorities.

That's because the current young generation who grew up on texting... is now getting their driver's licenses.

"It's the culture they grew up in," said CHP officer Steve Creel. "They think they can multi-task at everything."

"It's very predominant among teens," added Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, who teaches at Dublin High School. "It's their primary mode of communication."

Texting is part of an overall campaign against distracted driving. April, in fact, was Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Distracted driving includes all sorts of behavior that takes away a driver's focus from the road. That includes eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading and watching videos.

It's no small matter. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates 3,000 people were killed in the United States in 2010 in distracted driving accidents. They also calculate that 16 percent of all crashes involve distracted driving.

However, texting is considered the worst offense because it involves visual, manual and cognitive skills -- all of which are needed for driving.

Although all age groups are guilty of texting while driving, experts say teens are far more likely to break this law than anyone else.

The CHP has set up a website called Impact Teen Driving, which lists statistics and personal stories. Among the facts, teen driver crashes are the leading cause of death for the nation's youth.

The site states that 20 percent of 11th graders report being in one crash the past year. In the United States, one in four crash fatalities involve someone 16 to 24 years old.

In Rohnert Park, the community was shocked into action last February when an . Police say she has admitted she was texting while she was driving.

A Concord family that lost a father and his daughter when they were hit early this month attended a vigil in Sacramento last weekend to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

Danville Police Sgt. Nate McCormack says his officers are constantly writing citations for teens who are texting behind the wheel.

"This age group is always texting, whether they are driving or doing something else," he said.

Safety officials note it takes an average of 4.6 seconds to receive or send a text message. If you're driving 55 miles per hour, you'll cover 100 yards in that time span.

McCormack said the problem is simple.

"They're looking down when they should be looking up," he said.

Why do teens do it?

You can hear what some California High students in San Ramon think about texting and driving in the video attached to this story. It was put together by Cal High student Shalaka Gole.

Creel notes a teen can receive a dozen text messages in 20 minutes. If they are driving during that time, they can feel like they're missing out on a lot.

"With teens, it's how many minutes between texts, not how many texts they receive in a day," said Creel.

Teens also feel like they are so good at texting, they can send electronic messages and drive without endangering themselves.

That's a belief that can be deadly.

"They may be good and natural at texting," said Sbranti, "but they are not necessarily good and natural at driving."

"It's hard to get through to teens," added McCormack. "They think they're invincible. They don't think it's going to happen to them."

McCormack said the only solution is to educate teens as well as their parents about the dangers.

That's the philosophy of the federal Department of Transporation. They have a website that is dedicated to distracted driving awareness. On it, they have facts about distracted driving, how teens as well as parents can get involved and the "faces" of people who have been injured or killed in distracted driving accidents.


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