OCEAN CITY — While drinking and driving continues to be the main threat to young drivers in Maryland and across the country, a fairly new threat, text messaging and cell phone use, are starting to pile up some ominous statistics.
With the arrival of high school prom and graduation season in Worcester County and throughout the state, the message about the dangers of drinking and driving continue to be hammered home. However, adding to risk is the growing phenomenon of distracted driving, particularly cell phone use and text messaging. The National Transportation Safety Administration this week reported distracted driving is now the number one killer of American teens.
In 2010 alone, 3,000 people were killed and an astonishing 416,000 more were injured as a result of distracted driving, most often caused by text messaging. According to another survey released this week by the Ad Council, 60 percent of young adult drivers ages 16-24 admitted they often text message while driving. To that end, the NTSA and the Ad Council, including local, state and national law enforcement agencies, this week announced a new initiative “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks” aimed at increasing awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler this week lent his support to the initiative.
“Far too many young drivers are needlessly hurt or killed on Maryland roads because of distracted driving,” he said. “Although we have relatively new state laws that crack down on cell phone use while driving, we still see the need to push and practice safe driving habits for the benefit of all drivers, especially our young.”
The Ocean City Police Department is also joining in spreading the word about the dangers of distracted driving. In April, the OCPD promoted increased awareness through the national “Put It Down” campaign.
“Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino. “They can be in the form of electronic distractions, such as navigation systems and cell phones, or they can be more conventional distractions such as putting on make-up, eating or playing with the car radio.”
DiPino encouraged all drivers to avoid distractions, particularly the often deadly cell phone use.
“We all have a stake in this problem and we are all part of the solution,” she said. “If we encourage people to focus their attention on driving, we can empower them to be a good example for our children, our peers and our community.”