If the words “car accident news” are input into any major internet search engine, a listing of all of car accidents occurring over the past 48 hours would appear. The results will likely scare you as they reveal a huge problem on our highways. A review of the articles reveals that the majority of the automobile accidents involve young drivers.  Just over the past weekend, six teens were killed after striking a guardrail (no seat belts worn) , a baby boy delivered after parents were killed in hit and run car accident, Tampa teen killed after swerving to avoid stopped traffic, man killed after failing to see stopped vehicle, texting teen causes three car accident, 3 students die after running stop sign. Yes, all of this occurred this past weekend.

The details of each accident investigation have not been released. However, I imagine that the likely conclusion of each accident investigation will be — one driver failed to pay attention to the road. In other words, one driver was distracted. Our prayers go out to each family affected by the tragedies that occurred over the weekend. However, the fact remains that we are faced with huge a problem on our highways involving young and distracted drivers.  Until the problem is addressed and drivers take personal responsibility, no one is safe on our highways.

A recent study conducted by State Farm shows that although drivers of all age groups are affected by distracted driving, the heart of the problem lies with young drivers.  State Farm recently conducted a study on the driving habits of drivers and nearly 1000 motorists were surveyed. The data showed an increase in both the percentage of drivers who own mobile web devices, and the number of people who report accessing the internet while driving. Although smartphones, tablet devices, gaming devices, and other mobile devices are all amazing advances in technology, such devices present drivers with additional distractions. In addition to navigating 1 to 2 ton vehicles along the highway, drivers also surf the web,  respond to email, update their social media page, all while eating their to-go oatmeal, Biscotti and hot coffee.  Next time you drive your car take a look at the other driver sitting next to you at the stop light.  Either you will observe a glowing device in his or her hand, a steaming cup of coffee, or some other distraction.

The results of the study conducted by State Farm highlights the problem with young drivers. The study yielded the following results:

For drivers ages 18-29:

    • 48 percent of young drivers accessed the internet while on a cell phone while driving, compared to 29 percent in 2009
    • 36 percent of young drivers read social media networks while driving, compared to 21 percent in 2009
    • 30 percent updated social networks while driving, compared to 20 percent in 2009
    • 43 percent checked email while driving, compared to 32 percent in 2009 

In 2010, approximately 2,700 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed in auto crashes. and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes. Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population, however they account for 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males, and 28% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.  The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19 years olds than among any other age group.  Young male drivers are twice as likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than female drivers. Research shows that teens are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents when other teens ride with them as passengers.

So what do we do with our young drivers? Do we send them all back to the driver’s education course? Strip their licenses? Some groups like End Distracted Driving are addressing these issues head on. End Distracted Driving is sponsored by the Casey Feldman Foundation and is dedicated to inspiring individuals and communities to take action to educate young drivers and promote driving safety. The Casey Feldman Foundation was established in 2009 in memory of Casey A. Feldman who was just 21-years old when she was struck by a distracted driver. End Distracted Driving recruits professionals to speak at local high schools regarding driving safety. For more information, visit their website at www.endDD.org.

Television and radio are filled with commercials that highlight how amazing smartphones and other mobile devices are. It would certainly be nice to see those same companies air commercials that discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Parents, teachers, professionals, brothers, sisters, and yes, corporations, all have a duty to help save lives and restore the safety of our highways.

Aaron Watson is an car accident attorney at Levin Papantonio. Mr. Watson has served as president for the Black Law Students Association at Stetson, interned with the United States Department of Justice, and volunteered with the Florida Attorney General’s office. He was selected for the Stallworth Trial Team Award by faculty, named to Who’s Who Among American Universities & Colleges, and was inducted into The National Order of Barristers. Mr. Watson currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice. He also serves on the board of directors for the Florida Justice Association.