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Texting and Driving Deadly for Teens

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Is any text message worth dying over?


Sixteen-year-old Kayla Preuss died of head injuries when she lost control of her car and slammed into the center median. Phone records show Preuss was texting just before the accident.

According to a recent survey, 46% of 16- and 17-year-olds admit to text messaging while driving. That's a frightening statistic, considering AAA found that the risk for a car accident increases by 50% for those who text while driving. Currently, six states have jurisdiction-wide bans on driving while talking on a handheld cell phone, which includes text messaging, according to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. Overall, 18 other states have a texting ban--and many other states have introduced legislation to ban this dangerous practice. In fact, a recent survey found 89% of Americans want texting while driving outlawed. Here are just a few others who've died as a result of texting and driving:

Bailey Goodman, 17, was killed along with four of her fellow cheerleaders when she swerved into oncoming traffic, hit a tractor-trailer and her SUV burst into flames. Five days earlier, the five teenagers had graduated from high school. Two minutes before the crash was reported, her phone was used to send a text greeting to a friend.
Ashley D. Miller, 18, veered into oncoming traffic and hit another car head-on while she was texting. She and the other driver, a 40-year-old mother of 1, were killed instantly.
Dana Trammell, 17, was texting someone on her way to her first day of school of senior year when she crashed and was thrown from her vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Chelsea Ann Bragg, 16, was killed in a rollover crash after texting while driving. She veered off the shoulder of the road and then lost control of the car, causing it to roll twice. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

- 17-year-old Vanna Francis and 15-year-old Ronnie Scroggins drowned when a car carrying seven teenagers drove off the road and into a river. The 20-year-old driver admitted she was texting on her cell phone when the car plunged into the water, and was later arrested.

- 13-year-old Earman Machado was killed Dec. 27, 2007, when a car--driven by Craig P. Bigos, a 31-year-old father of four, who was text messaging--swerved onto the side of the street and struck the boy on his bike. Bigos has been charged with motor vehicle homicide, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and driving without a license.

- 18-year-old Makayla Lynn Belew was killed when a text-messaging driver hit her as she walked along the side of the road and then drove away from the scene. A year later, Larry Chad Smithey, 28, was arrested for the crime.

- 17-year-old Patrick Sims was replying to a text message when he drifted into the bicycle lane and struck and killed cyclist Jim Price, 63. He was charged with careless driving resulting in death.

How can parents make sure kids don't text and drive?

To help keep your teens safe while they are in the car, SADD recommends moms follow these guidelines for teaching their kids about driving distractions.

  • Know and enforce your state's Graduated Driver License laws and restrictions, including unsupervised driving, time of day and passengers in the car.
  • Sign a teen driving contract such as SADD's Contract for Life
  • Set family driving rules with clear consequences for breaking the rules. SADD recommends rules such as: o No alcohol or drug use o No cell phone use, including text messaging o No driving after 10 p.m. o Keep two hands on the wheel--no eating, changing CDs, handling iPods or other activities while driving o Limit or restrict friends in the car without an adult
  • Follow your own family's rules. Your teen will follow your driving example, so be sure you are keeping your own rules.

How to Avoid Driving Distractions

  • Pull off the road. Do not drive while calling or texting.
  • Use speed dialing or voice-activated dialing if you have to make a call while driving.
  • Let your voicemail take the call. You can call back later when you are not driving. * Know when to stop talking. If the conversation is long, emotional or stressful, continue it when you are not driving.
  • Do not take notes while driving. If you don't want to forget a note, use a take recorder or pull off the road.
  • Do not eat or drink while driving.
  • Groom yourself at home, not in the vehicle. Need a visual aid? Watch this with your teen: Through conversation, education, and communication, we hope your teens will get the message that no text message is worth dying for.

next: Skinny Celeb: A Hypocrite?
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