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Who's in the car with your teen driver?

You probably recall the jokes the adults in your life made when you first got your license years ago. Instead of congratulating you, they may have laughingly vowed to give up driving or hinted that the roads would never be safe again. You may have taken it in stride, or perhaps you set out to prove them wrong by keeping your driving record clean.

You likely remember those early jittery days of uncertainty with your new license. You may even remember the first time you took your friends for a ride. The radio was up loud, and the windows were down as you and your friends pushed the boundaries with your newfound freedom. Unfortunately for many teens today, those rides often turn out deadly.

What is really distracting teen drivers?

The sad truth is that teen drivers are a danger on Mississippi roads and across the country. At least that's what the latest data shows. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently reported that nine people die each day in accidents involving distracted drivers. Over 1,000 others suffer injuries, some critical.

While you may think of cell phones and texting as the most common form of distraction for drivers, among teens, it's a different story. In addition to texting and talking on their mobile devices, teen drivers are distracted in the following ways:

  • Surfing the internet on their devices
  • Watching movies while driving
  • Taking selfies or streaming live behind the wheel
  • Driving while experiencing extreme emotions
  • Grooming, including applying makeup
  • Eating and drinking
  • Allowing their passengers to engage in rowdy behavior such as partying and dancing

While 12 percent of distracted driving crashes among teens result from texting, at least 15 percent relate to other passengers in the car. Additionally, the most startling statistic of all may be that 60 percent of accidents involving teen drivers are the result of some form of distraction, even when parents install a dash cam system in their vehicles.

Parents, schools and public safety agencies continue to implore teens to behave prudently behind the wheel. Unfortunately, reckless behavior in the teen years seems to carry over into adulthood. As disturbing as the data is regarding teens and distracted driving, those in their 20s have an even higher risk. Not only do they continue allowing people and devices to distract them, but they also seem to gain more confidence as drivers, possibly leading them to take greater chances, endangering you and others on the road.

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