Distracted driving: What you can do

According to the federal Department of Transportation, 3,328 Americans were killed in 2012 because of distracted-driving crashes. Among 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes, 21% were distracted by the use of cellphones.

Distracted driving (defined as texting, using a cellphone or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, watching a video, or adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player while operating a motor vehicle) is a serious safety issue for all Americans. Although adults are also at risk from this behavior, less-experienced teen drivers are particularly vulnerable to being injured or killed in a crash involving distracted driving. A new study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that young drivers may become overconfident once they've earned their licenses.

"Novice drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk secondary tasks more frequently over time as they become more comfortable with driving," Charlie Klauer, group leader for teen risk and injury prevention at the institute's Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety, recently told USA TODAY. "The increasingly high rates of secondary task engagement among newly licensed drivers in our study are worrisome as this appears to be an important contributing factor to crashes or near-crashes."

Here's what you can do to make the road safer for everyone:

Talk to your teen children and grandchildren and set clear rules about safe driving and distraction behind the wheel

Review your jurisdiction's driving laws and make sure that everyone in the family understands the regulations and the penalties for driving while distracted

Set a good example by putting away the phone and other devices when you're the driver

Download and take the pledge to drive phone-free, and encourage others to do the same, at distraction.gov

Consider installing a monitoring device in your teen's car. Some insurance carriers offer these along with a discount.


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