Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the second leading cause of death for teens, which is why law enforcement officers focus their education with that age group on the dangers of distracted driving.
National Teen Driver Safety Week runs through Oct. 23 and Sgt. James Tonn with the traffic division of the St. Joseph Police Department said while he understands teenagers feel invincible, mistakes happen.
“Accidents can happen in a split second. I’m almost 40. I used to be a teenager at one time. I was no different than anybody else. I’m not preaching to anybody, but I’m asking you to please slow down and stay off the phone,” he said.
When responding to the scene of a crash involving teenagers, Tonn said it’s a very scary moment for parents and others involved.
“Parents who are very distraught, usually teenagers who are also upset, a lot of times when they’re OK, they’re scared about what the parents are gonna say. And a lot of the time, it has to do with just inattention,” Tonn said. “Whether it’s a cell phone, whether it’s a friend in the car, whether it’s something else other than driving, it’s inattention.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main causes of injury crashes involving teens are inexperience and driving with other young people in the car. Tonn said many people do not understand how quickly an accident can happen.
“In an instant, we can get hurt or killed on the roadway, and that’s why we highlight for this week teen safety and driving,” he said. “So we just ask that you slow down. The speed limit is there for a reason. Please stay off your phone.
“I understand driving with your friends and having fun, but while you’re driving, do one thing at a time, and that’s driving and focusing,” Tonn said. “Watch the lights, don’t assume that someone’s going to see you or stop for you. Even if you have the right of way, drive defensively and just get home.”
Tonn also said one of the quickest and most important things to do when you get into a car at any age is to put on a seat belt.