Teen Drivers: Put. The. Phone. Down.

I first got interested in distracted driving one sunny morning when my bored children started counting the number of drivers texting on the New Jersey Turnpike.

They only got to seven or eight, but traffic was light, and it was the New Jersey Turnpike, for crying out loud, so all those texters were going something like 70 miles an hour – unless they were in a hurry.

The risks these drivers were taking shocked me, but I’m behind the times. Two-thirds of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports National Research Center had seen a driver texting within the past 30 days.

Teen-agers, glued to their media as they seem to be, are an even greater risk. In the survey, younger drivers were less likely to see texting or talking on cellphones while behind the wheel as a danger. Sixty-three percent acknowledged talking on a cellphone while driving, while 30 percent said they had texted.

So, as the Washington Post reports, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports have teamed up to get teen drivers to put their phones down.

Consumers Union has devoted a chunk of its famous April car-buying issue to the distracted-motorist phenomenon, including product reviews of devices meant to address the problem.

The government’s web site devoted to the overall problem, distraction.gov, features videos of young drivers dead because of distracted driving, including this one about the brother of Loren Vaillancourt, Miss South Dakota:

The web site also has a brochure (pdf) directed at parents and educators. Its tips include: Talk to your teen, set ground rules, sign a pledge, educate yourself and spread the word.

But the first tip is: Set a good example – something I hope my kids can see next time we’re on the Turnpike.

I.I.I. has more information on the problem here.

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