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Distracted driving a major problem among teens

Efforts to educate young drivers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. and to warn them about the consequences of acting recklessly while behind the wheel do not appear to be working. Car accidents remain the leading cause of death for teens around the country. Government accident statistics show that the roads of America became far more deadly in 2015 with fatality rates shooting up by more than 7 percent, but the 10 percent rise in teen deaths was even more concerning for many road safety groups.

Experts had hoped that new automobile safety features would lead to a reduction in the number of fatal car accidents involving younger drivers, but even these innovative crash avoidance systems have been unable to counter the dangers posed by cellphones. Distracted driving deaths overall were up by 8.8 percent in 2015 according to NHTSA data, and the dangers of making phone calls or reading text messages while driving were the subject of many school and college safety presentations during National Teen Driver Safety Week. The annual safety initiative ended on Oct. 22.

Distracted driving accident rates are increasing across the country, and AAA Foundation researchers concluded in March 2016 that distraction plays a role in about half of the serious accidents involving teens. Safety groups have found that teen drivers respond better to facts and figures than more emotional messages, and many school and college presentations are based on research conducted at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Establishing that distracted driving was the cause of a car accident can be challenging for both accident investigators and personal injury attorneys. Identifying intoxicated motorists is generally a fairly straightforward process for the police, but distracted drivers rarely provide officers with visual clues. Personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for accident victims could study cellphone records when distraction is suspected, and they may also find the information captured by automobile data recorders useful in these situations.

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