By Roseanne Albano
Holly Wilson learned the hard way about the danger of texting and driving: she crashed into a school bus.
The accident totaled her car and caused $3,000 worth of damage to the bus, said Wilson, an 18-year-old graduate of Western Branch High School.
“After the accident I definitely learned my lesson, it’s not worth it to text while you’re driving,” she said. While many teens understand the danger of texting and driving, they may not realize that other distracting activities that take their eyes of their road can be just as dangerous.
About 27 percent of teen drivers engage in activities that take their eyes off the road, according to a study published by the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security. Those activities include changing clothes, putting on makeup and even finishing homework, all while driving.
Linda Newsome, a physical education and driver education teacher at Salem High School, said she emphasizes to her students the importance of keeping both eyes on the road at all time.
“I’d hate to see students of mine get into fatal or even minor car accidents,” she said.
Distracted driving isn’t a problem unique to young drivers. A recent study by AT&T shows seven in 10 people engage in smart phone activities, such as checking social media, taking photos and videos, and surfing the net. The study also found that 62 percent of drivers put their smart phones at an easy-to-reach distance, 30 percent update their Twitter account while driving do it “all the time”, and 27 percent of people who shoot video while driving think they’re doing it safely.
Drive Smart Virginia is among the organizations that are trying to counter the danger by advertising the consequences of distracted driving. Its distracted driving simulator has reached more than 8,000 kids, giving them hands on, interactive assignments that help them grasp the importance of keeping their eyes on the road.
Drive Smart Virginia also holds an annual Distracted Driving Summit that invites the top scientists on distracted driving to talk about their studies and educate the public. Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, said tickets have already sold out for this year’s event, with 320 attendees.
Count Wilson among the teens who have already gotten the message on distracted driving.
“If there is one thing I learned from my car accident it would be, “Don’t take the risk of putting yourself, or those around you in danger,’ ” she said.“So please think before you pick up your phone while driving and ask yourself if it’s worth it.”