In the last five years, more than 5,000 people lost their lives in crashes involving teen drivers during the 100 deadliest days. Over the course of a typical summer, 1,022 died in these kinds of fatal accidents.
"Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver" notes Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Texting is especially dangerous among teen drivers. Not only is texting common among teens, with some 55 percent reporting texting every day; nearly half of teen drivers also admitted to reading a text or e-mail while driving in the past month. Texting increases crash risk 23 times compared with driving sans distractions.
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What is it about texting that makes it a particularly risky behavior? According to a study published last month in the journal Scientific Reports, texting shuts down a "sixth sense" in the brain that might otherwise keep us out of danger on the road even when we're unfocused.
Texting may interfere with a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, according to the researchers, which is known to intervene as an "error corrector." Hand eye-coordination is needed to correct mistakes, and texting gets in the way of that.
Understanding the causes of distracted driving can prevent future crashes and save lives. The AAA study recommends parents talk with their kids about the dangers of distracted driving, agree to ground rules to avoid distractions while behind the wheel, and above all set an example for their children by not engaging in the very behavior that moms and dads are trying to discourage.
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