CFF_2017_03.23_Wooldridge Family Photo

Pictured from L to R: Jade Robinson, Dr. Toron Wooldridge, Brianna Robinson, and their father, Toren Robinson

Children like to be in control even before they get in the driving seat.

When they turn 13, they can’t wait to get their license. When they’re 18, they can’t wait to get their own car. As adults they don’t like to hear us say, “It can wait,”.

Our concern for their safety grows more and more every day. When they do get their driver’s license, as adults we’re even more concerned. We’re concerned because the statistics of teens who drive distracted behind the wheel is scary. The fact is, that car crashes have become the leading cause of death among people age 16-20, killing more than 5,600 teens each year.

Risky behavior behind the wheel

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teens are among the riskiest drivers on the road, crashing four times more often than adult drivers do.  In a report released in February, the AAA found that 88 percent of millennials were involved in at least one risky behavior behind the wheel in the past 30 days.  The dangerous behaviors that increased the crash risk included texting while driving, red-light running and speeding. Activities such as these are known as distracted driving.

In addition to texting while driving, driving activities that endanger drivers, passengers and bystanders are:

  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or player.

Distracted driving also includes using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems).

States that ban cell phone use while driving

Pennsylvania and 45 states, including the District of Columbia, have laws banning texting while driving. In November 2016, Governor Tom Wolf (D-Pennsylvania) signed House Bill 2025 into law. The bill, known as “Daniel’s Law,” is in memory of Daniel Gallatin who was hit from behind and killed while riding his motorcycle on May 7, 2013. The driver who hit Gallatin was texting.  The bill enhances the penalties for distracted driving in Pennsylvania that results in serious bodily injury or death. When Gov. Wolf signed the bill, he called distracted driving just as dangerous as drunken driving.

Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Hawaii do not have bans on texting while driving. However, signs of a statewide ban in Texas showed progress this month.

On March 15, the Texas legislature passed a statewide ban on texting while driving, but approved to allow drivers to text in an emergency situation. The ban does not include using a GPS. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Fighting to help end distracted driving

Toron Wooldridge, an educator, said he will continue to fight to help the bill get passed.  “I’m going to push for more stringent consequences involving individuals who cause fatalities while texting and driving.”

This week marks the one year anniversary of the tragic car accident of Dr. Wooldridge’s two sisters Jade and Brianna Robinson. The siblings were killed on March 20, 2016, along with one of their friends Brittanie Johnson, 18, when their car was struck by a semi-tracker trailer.  The crash was caused when the driver of the car they were riding in, became distracted after she looked at her GPS. This year, Jade would have completed her freshman year at Tennessee Wesleyan University. Brianna was studying to be an educator like her older brother, Toron.

As Dr. Wooldridge spreads the word to youth about the dangers of distracted driving, he tells youth that their distractions on the road can be fatal. When they’re on the road and juggle technology and other activities, they’re not invincible. In the blink of an eye someone’s life can be taken away.

So, it’s not too early to tell a youth, “It can wait.  It only takes a moment.”

Have you encouraged someone to take the pledge?

 

 

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