By Natalie Fultz
COLUMBUS, GA - The day a teen gets their driver's license is one they wait years for. It brings a new era of independence and responsibility, but teen drivers need to be aware of distractions that not only put themselves, but others in harms way.
"The fastest growing of those is, of course, the cell phone. It is against the law for a driver under the age of 18 to even use a cell, not even hands free, in no way can you make a call while the vehicle is in motion," Harris Blackwood, GOHS Director says.
A person going 60 miles per hour, travels the length of a football field in less than five seconds. Imagine the repercussions of doing that while texting.
"A person who is texting and driving and is engaged in that activity is just as dangerous as a person who is legally drunk," Blackwood says.
"You'll see people looking down when you meet them in the road, they aren't even looking at the road. If a child darts out in front of them or a car pulls out in front of them, you're looking at a collision because they aren't paying attention to what they are doing," Jay Stripling, coordinator says.
Speed, alcohol use and fatigue are also leading factors that cause teen crashes, but one local teen driver finds that music and passengers are extremely distracting.
"Driving with multiple people, especially my friends, and you've got the music going really loud is really distracting. When you get text messages or alerts on your phone from Twitter that can be distracting, and you can be tempted to use your phone," Zoe Helke-Pierce, local teen driver says.
Since 2007, Georgia has seen a 45 percent reduction in teen driver traffic deaths.
An estimated 156 drivers 20-years-old and younger died in 2012.
"You don't have experience as a teen driver. You haven't been driving long yet, and you need to pay attention to what you're doing. Drive safely. Let your friends laugh at you for driving the speed limit, but I'd much rather you get where you're going. You've got a lot more time than you've got lives and money," Stripling says.
The GOHS encourages parents to practice driving with their teen for at least 65 hours.
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