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Distracted driving poses legal and personal risks for NC teens

We recently reported that North Carolina police will be on high alert over the next few months for teens that drink and drive. There is typically a spike in the amount of alcohol-related car accidents during the months of April, May and June.

Drunk driving is dangerous, both personally and legally. Yet new statistics indicate that it is not the most common cause of car accidents among teenagers. In fact, a new study reveals that about half of car accidents involving teenage drivers are caused by factors relating to inexperience or distraction.

Researchers used a federal database to examine 795 serious car accidents involving 822 teen drivers. In 76 percent of these accidents, critical driver error was determined to be the cause.

Researchers noted that there were three errors that accounted for about half of these accidents. The first common error was a failure to visually scan the driving environment. The second common error involved driving faster than road conditions would safely allow.

Both of these mistakes can be explained by simple lack of experience. It takes young drivers time to learn the subtleties of good driving.

However, the third common cause of driver error was distraction. This includes behaviors such as texting while driving and talking on cell phones.

This is a significant finding. While there are teen-driver car accidents caused by drunk driving, it is safe to say that a majority of teens don't drink and drive. Teens are much more likely to use a cell phone while behind the wheel.

In addition to significantly increasing the risk of a car accident, texting while driving is also illegal in North Carolina; and teens can be fined $100 for each offense. If you are under 18, state law also forbids you to use your cell phone to make calls while driving.

Whether it's drunk driving or distracted driving, North Carolina teens face legal and personal risks. Please remember to be safe this spring as you celebrate proms and graduations.

Source: Healthday News, "Driver Errors Explain Most Teen Crashes, Experts Say," Kathleen Doheny, 12 April 2011

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