Cellphone use by teenagers remains a problem

It’s a phone call no one wants to get. The one that breaks the news that a loved one has been injured, or killed, in a car accident.
Trent Faulkner, driver’s education instructor at Sun Valley High School, got such a phone call two years ago about his mother, Cecelia Pearce.
“She was talking to her husband on her cellphone, and we believe she either dropped it or she was talking and not paying attention,” Faulkner said. “She pulled out in an intersection and was T-boned by a truck in Concord.”
Faulkner often uses this as an example when teaching driver’s education. “My mother was killed because she was messing with her cellphone,” he said. “She was 69 years old. Texting or using the cell phone is not age prejudice.”
Even though North Carolina law states that no one under 18 can talk on a cell phone while driving, Faulkner says that too often he sees this law broken.
“It is a problem. I’m directing traffic into the school parking lot in the morning – students are on their cellphones texting,” he said. “If they’re texting when they come into the parking lot in the morning, what are they doing on the road?”
According to the National Safety Council, 28 percent of traffic accidents occur when drivers are talking or texting on cellphones. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says drivers talking on cell phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, and texting while driving makes the driver eight times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Why? Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, the institute says.
Taking one’s eyes off the road allows the car to shift right or to the left, either running off the road or crossing into oncoming traffic. It also means that the driver can’t react to obstacles in front of his car. “People are going to stop in front of you,” Faulkner said. “The number one cause of accidents in North Carolina is rear-end collisions.”
Kailey Mann, 15, a Sun Valley High School sophomore, said she often witnesses teenagers using cellphones while driving. “I know it’s against the law, but I have friends who text in the car when they’re driving and fidget with their iPod, as well.”
Austin Lingle, 15, also a sophomore at Sun Valley High, says texting while driving is especially problematic with teenagers. “A lot of kids do it, but it’s not safe. If you’re texting, you have your eyes off the road and something could happen right in front of you and you can’t even see it. There’s a wreck right there. Cellphones get you distracted, and if you’re not thinking of driving, you’re distracted.”
Ultimately, Faulkner said it might take a tragedy to make young adults realize the dangers of cellphone use while driving. “Unfortunately, I think the only way some teenagers will get it through their head is to get in an accident. I know that sounds bad, but teenagers think they’re invincible until it actually happens.”
The problem of distracted driving due to cell phone use, however, is not just a problem with teenagers. Being careless can affect any age. That’s why it’s against the law for anyone, no matter the age, to text while driving.
“I don’t care how old you are, if you’re texting you’re not looking at the road,” Faulkner said. “You’re a hazard to other people on the road. It’s just as big a hazard as drunk driving.”
Kailey said she feels cell phone use while driving should be prohibited for adults as well as people under the age of 18.
“You shouldn’t be able to use your cell phone at all in the car,” Kailey said. “Even if you’re an experienced driver and you’re talking on the phone, your attention is distracted. You might be an experienced driver, but if someone says something on the phone to upset you, then you’re emotionally distracted and not paying attention to the road.”
Faulkner said the solution to reducing the problem among teenagers could be parental guidance. “If parents want to keep their kids off of their cellphones, they need to exercise the proper techniques themselves,” Faulkner said. “Kids learn by example.”
How to stop parents from being distracted by cellphone use may involve something much more tragic, as Faulkner can attest.

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