Today’s Editorial January 31: Distractions kill teen drivers too

Not to beat a dead horse…

But there was a story on the CayYoung page of Tuesday’s edition of the Caymanian Compass that was datelined out of Bloomington, Illinois.

The story made it on that page because it is relevant to teens not only in the United States but anywhere in the world where young people are allowed to get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle.

The article had some good news to relate: 90 per cent of the teens interviewed said they rarely or never drive after drinking or using drugs.

The findings mirror a trend that has seen traffic deaths involving alcohol drop by about 35 per cent from 1990 to 2005 in the US.

We think it’s a safe bet that those statistics carry over to the Cayman Islands.

But this article went deeper. While US teens aren’t as likely to drink and drive, they are still having fatal car wrecks, just as we are in Cayman.

The experts quoted in the article said distractions help make traffic accidents the No. 1 killer of US teens.

Researchers found that one passenger with a teen driver doubles the risk of a fatal crash. Add two or more teens riding along and the risk is five times higher.

Many states have laws restricting passengers when teens drive. The Cayman Islands does not.

Something to consider?

Nearly 90 per cent of the teens interviewed for the report said they saw peers talking on cell phones and more than half spotted drivers using hand-held games, listening devices or sending text messages.

About 75 per cent said they see teens driving while tired or struggling with powerful emotions. More than nine of the US teens also reported seeing teen drivers speeding and half admitted driving at least 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.

Researchers in the US are going to use the report to push for legislation for graduated drivers licences, night driving curfews and passenger restrictions.

No, we are not the US and should not mimic everything that nation does.

But it looks like this study is onto a good thing and any legislation that comes out of it to help save teens’ lives will be worth it.

While the numbers and findings belong to the US, we humbly suggest that the same results would be found here if a similar survey was conducted.

Graduated licenses, night driving curfews and passenger restrictions are all good ideas.

So are the ideas of keeping drivers – young and old – off cell phones, keeping hand-held games out of drivers’ hands and ensuring the only thing they are listening to is the car radio, not something that requires head phones.

Lawmakers, where is the graduated licensing legislation? And what else can you do to help?

At the end of the day keeping teens safe is a parenting issue. Don’t arm your children with dangerous vehicles and keep their distractions to a minimum.

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