AUGUSTA – During National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 18-24, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding teens to drive safely, with a focus on avoiding distracted driving.
National Teen Driver Safety Week was established by Congress in 2007 to focus attention on the number one killer of teens: motor vehicle crashes. Crashes are the leading cause of death for 14-18 year olds in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2013, there were 2,614 teen (15-19-year-old) drivers involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured.
This year, Secretary Dunlap has partnered with the AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign, visiting Maine high schools to spread the word about the deadly consequences of texting while driving. He spoke with students at Windham High School last week and will be at Noble High School in North Berwick on Tuesday, Oct. 20, asking all the students to make the pledge to never text and drive.
In his address to the Windham High School students, Secretary Dunlap reflected on the devastation of the injuries and deaths that result from distracted driving car crashes.
“The hardest thing I have to do is convince people that this will happen to them,” he said. “These are not things we can hit reset on and start over. And what’s so frustrating is that this is the simplest thing in the world to prevent: Just don’t do it.”
Surveys conducted by AT&T show that nearly half of all commuters admit to texting and driving, while 75 percent of teens say the behavior is common among their friends.
In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers and 424,000 people were injured, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. Drivers under the age of 20 make up the largest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.
In addition to speaking directly with Maine’s teens, Secretary Dunlap urges parents to consult the Parents’ Supervised Driving Program manual for tips on teaching their teen about safe driving, and to sign the Parent/Teen driver contract.