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Distracted driving campaign aims to prevent teen car accidents

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have teamed up to introduce a distracted driving enforcement campaign called "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." While the two-week April campaign includes aggressive ticketing by law enforcement agencies around the country, it is also designed to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly among young people. A $5 million advertising campaign is currently running across the country to reinforce the message that distracted driving kills.

According to NHTSA, 10 percent of 15-to-19-year-old drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2013 were distracted. This is the largest single age group involved in distracted driving collisions. Often, they're the ones who paid the price. Over 200 teens in that age group were killed by distracted driving.

However, those killed aren't necessarily even in the distracted driver's car. That study reported that 480 non-occupants lost their lives at the hands of a distracted driver.

Of course, teens aren't the only culprits or victims. Over 3,100 people in this country were killed in accidents that involved a distracted driver in 2013 and about 424,000 were injured.

According to the federal website Distraction.gov, texting while driving is illegal for drivers of all ages in Indiana. All cellphone use (even hands-free) is illegal for drivers under 18. However, Indiana state legislators are considering legislation that would make the use of a handheld phone illegal while driving.

Parents can play a significant role in modeling safe driving behavior to their teens, contends NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. He says that parents should not be afraid to take away the keys if they find out their teen is texting behind the wheel, noting, "These are driving safety lessons that young drivers will carry with them throughout their lives." They should also be encouraged to speak up if they are in a car with a driver using a handheld device.

No matter what precautions we take and teach our kids, too many people of all ages mistakenly believe that they can safely multi-task while they're driving. When an accident occurs, law enforcement officers regularly check drivers' mobile devices to determine whether they were in use when the crash occurred. If they were, this could impact their criminal penalties and their civil liability to the victims.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Campaign Cracks Down on Distracted Driving," José Alberto Uclés, April. 02, 2015

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