In Massachusetts and across the nation, distracted driving has received increasing attention as the general population becomes more aware of its dangers. This is a good thing, as according to the Department of Transportation, distracted driving killed over 3,000 people in car accidents nationwide during 2010 alone. In addition, the department also reported that distracted drivers injured 416,000 people during the same time period.
Although distracted driving is a problem for all age groups, experts say that teenage drivers are the most at risk. The reason for this can be explained by a couple of factors.
The most obvious reason is that teenage drivers are much more likely to use cellphones or send text messages while driving. Although text messaging has become common among all age groups, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers under 25 are three times more likely to send text messages while behind the wheel.
The dangers of text messaging while driving are well documented. Text messaging takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, enough time to go the entire length of a football field if the car is traveling 55 miles-per-hour. Text messaging while driving is inherently dangerous, making the driver 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
In addition to teenagers’ predilection for texting behind the wheel, the increased risk of teenagers for distracted driving can be explained by human development. Teenagers are still developing regulatory compliance—the ability to regulate attention and emotion to function well when faced with a challenge. Many have not fully developed this ability by the time that they reach driving age.
A person’s prefrontal cortex—the brain’s control center—develops more slowly than other parts of the brain. Teenage drives could have a well-developed limbic system, which controls award and arousal, but an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, making it harder to maintain control of the vehicle. If a teenage driver is distracted by something such as the ring of a cellphone or a conversation with a friend in the car, it can tip the balance and make it very difficult to maintain control of the vehicle.
In response to this danger, the federal government has passed $46 million in grants for states to establish or strengthen programs to curb distracted driving. One of the incentives is directed at teenage drivers, requiring states to strengthen their driver licensing programs to ban young drivers from using cellphones or other communication devices while driving.
Consult an attorney
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the driver to recover damages such as medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your right to compensation.