The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 20, 2021 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Distracted driving declines - but work remains for teens, parents

You don't have to be a parent – or “Jake” at State Farm – to know teenagers are among the highest-risk drivers on the road.

Statistics show they are more likely to engage in risky behavior, have less experience at anticipating risks, and are more easily distracted by music, passengers and other surroundings. And then there are the buzzes, rings, pings and musical notifications coming from their ever-present cellphones, which are never far from reach.

States, including Indiana, have tried to legislate safer driving behavior – and there is evidence some of those changes are working. Vehicle crashes accounted for the deaths of 4,874 teenagers in 2005; by 2019, that number had plummeted to 2,165.

But there's still lots of room to improve those numbers as a recent analysis of vehicle accidents involving teenage drivers found.

“The analysis found that 43.1% of Indiana teens used their phones while driving, defined by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as having texted or emailed while driving a car in the past 30 days,” reported Mike LaFirenza of Lattice Newswire in a Wednesday release about the CoPilot study. And that meant Indiana had the 18th most distracted teen drivers of the 46 states with complete data available.

For comparison, while CoPilot found 43.1% of Indiana teens used their phones while driving, the national average was 40%. Good news: Hoosier teens who don't wear a seatbelt was 5.9% compared to a national average of 6.2%. But Indiana's teen fatality rate per 100,000 was 14.9% vs. the national average of 11.4%.

So Indiana parents still have their work cut out for them. Anecdotal observations of Fort Wayne traffic suggest they might want to put their own phones away before beginning the conversation.

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