Thanks to an invitation from the enterprising students at Rockville High School in Maryland, I visited their school last Friday to talk about the dangers of distracted driving. That April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month made the visit all the more fitting.
For these students, Friday was also the last day of their Every 15 Minutes program. This is a compelling exercise where every 15 minutes students experience the loss of one of their classmates to a drunk driving crash. When this intense simulation program was founded, the name was meant to reflect a statistic that one person was killed in an alcohol-related vehicle crash in the United States every 15 minutes.
Since then, Every 15 Minutes has added texting and driving to the mix of deadly behaviors in their dramatic simulations.
In 2009 alone, nearly 5,500 people were killed and 500,000 more were injured in distracted driving crashes. But the highest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes was under the age of 20. And one in four American teens say they have texted while driving. As temperatures begin to warm up and school begins to wind down, we can also expect to see a lot more teen drivers on our roads.
So, while teens are not the only drivers who are texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel, it makes sense to focus on them as we kick-off this important month.
I want to thank the Rockville students for listening to my message, and particularly for their attention when I played for them two of our "Faces of Distracted Driving" videos. I hope seeing and hearing these heartbreaking messages from family members of distracted driving victims will help them steer a course to safe driving.
And I hope you'll agree that we can spare no effort to educate our teens about road safety, this month and every month.