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Put phone down!

The majority of us — 84%, according to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report — recognize the dangers of cellphone distractions while driving, finding it “unacceptable” to text or email behind the wheel. Yet more than one-third of us still admit to having read or sent a text or email message while driving in the last month.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention away from driving and the sobering reality is 10% of fatalities in the United States are a direct result of this practice.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicate that nearly 3,500 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 injured in distracted driving crashes in 2015.

However, the crash fatality rate is three times greater for teens than it is for those 20 and older. In fact, driver distraction is responsible for more than 58% of teen accidents.

With prom and graduation season quickly approaching now is an opportune time to talk to teens about the dangers of cellphone use while driving. Need a way to start the conversation? Start with a “did you know.”

• Did you know that in the time it takes to send or read a text — about five seconds — your vehicle has traveled the length of a football field?

• Did you know you are 23 times more likely to get into a crash or near-crash if you text behind the wheel?

• Did you know talking on a cellphone impairs driving as much as if you are driving while intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08%?

• But, perhaps the most valuable thing parents can do to curb distracted driving among teens is to lead by example. Teens whose parents drive distracted are two to four times more likely to partake in the same behavior.

The “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” attitude is irresponsible and reckless. If we want to save lives, including our own, it’s time to put the phones down.

— The State Journal

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