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Young Drivers: Stay Safe On The Road This Summer

ROSEMONT, Ill., May 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Summer. For teens and young adults the school break means more time for fun, friends, driving, and unfortunately, distractions – like texting, eating and applying makeup – while driving. In fact, the summer months rank the highest for crashes and related injuries/fatalities among teen drivers and passengers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that:

  • Approximately 387,000 Americans were injured in distracted driving-related crashes in 2011, and there were an estimated 3,331 fatalities.
  • Ten percent of injury crashes in 2011 were reported as "distraction-affected," and 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in a fatal crash were reportedly distracted at the time of the crash.  

And according to AAA, summer is the most dangerous time of year for teen drivers with seven of the top 10 deadliest days occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

That's why the " Decide to Drive" campaign, sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), is urging young drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road this summer to ensure that they, their friends, family and fellow travelers, stay safe.

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. At 44 mph, that's like driving the entire length of a football field, blind.  New NHTSA research found that drivers are more than three times more likely to get in a car crash while reaching for an object in the car; 23 times more likely while texting.

Orthopaedic surgeons and automakers are urging drivers to "decide to drive" behind the wheel and to avoid distractions while driving. The award-winning awareness/prevention campaign includes an interactive website; print, television and radio public service advertisements; an elementary school educational curriculum; and active social media outreach.  In 2012-2013, "Decide to Drive" is focusing specifically on teens and young adult drivers by visiting high schools throughout the country to provide students with the tools to start and continue the conversation with peers and parents ─ and anyone driving them ─ on the importance of staying focused on the road while driving.

"Orthopaedic surgeons are the medical doctors who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and trauma," said AAOS President Joshua Jacobs, MD. "We want to prevent distracted driving injuries, including those involving young drivers, and keep them and their passengers safe and strong for life."

" Decide to Drive" offers the Wreck-less Checklist for young (and all) drivers:

  • Consciously make a decision each and every time you get behind the wheel to make all other activities, passengers and priorities secondary to driving.
  • Before you start your car:
    • Put on any accessories you may need, such as sunglasses or Bluetooth TM ear pieces;
    • Adjust seats, head rests, vehicle controls and mirrors;
    • Fasten your safety belt;
    • Move all reading material away from easy reach;
    • Pre-load CDs or mp3 playlists and adjust volume level so your music does not mask the sounds of emergency sirens; and,
    • Enter an address in the navigation system before you depart or review maps and written directions before you drive.
  • Stop your vehicle — in a safe area — any time there is a distraction that needs your attention, such as retrieving items, having an involved discussion, reading, smoking, or disciplining a child.
  • Do not eat or drink while driving.
  • Keep your eyes on the road.
  • Driving is not the time to apply makeup, groom, polish your nails, or change clothing.

"For young drivers — or any driver, for that matter — their first priority is the safe operation of their car or truck which means eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," said Auto Alliance Vice President of Safety Robert Strassburger.

The summer presents greater challenges, especially for teens.  "Decide to Drive" offers valuable tips and resources for teens and parents to start and continue the conversation on the dangers of distracted driving.

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