"We know driving at night is dangerous. We know using a cell phone behind the wheel compromises your ability to drive. Combine both of those with driver inexperience, and you have created a perfect storm."
These are the words of Bernie Fette, of the Texas Transportation Institute's "Teens in the Driver's Seat" center. He was speaking about TTI's 10 year study of highway fatalities, released yesterday, which shows that the percentage of nighttime fatalities has increased for teen drivers during the last decade.
As the Washington Post's Ashley Halsey notes:
"Among drivers 20 and older, alcohol was a clear culprit in the proportional increase in nighttime deaths. Not so with teenagers, among whom there was a greater increase but no corresponding jump in deaths that could be attributed to drunken driving."
According to TTI, 80% of teens know about the dangers of drinking and driving. Only 3% are aware of the risk of nighttime driving, yet driving at night is the single biggest risk factor for teen car crash fatalities.
TTI reports that "Nighttime fatigue can contribute to impairment that is similar to being intoxicated."
But, Bernie Fette says another factor--distraction--makes fatigue even deadlier:
"We have a test to see whether someone's been drinking, but there is no test to see whether you've been on your cellphone. Because teenagers have grown up with these devices in their hands, they feel a comfort level and a very false sense of security."
I have to say, reading about this report during National Youth Traffic Safety Month makes for an awful coincidence.
Each and every day in this country, 11 teens die in car crashes. The worst part about this? These deaths are 100% preventable.
And people wonder why I'm on a rampage.
Please, if you are a teen driver or know a teen driver, visit distraction.gov to learn more about the dangers of distraction behind the wheel. Together, we can stop this.