Be sure to arrive alive no matter where you go
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
It’s homecoming season and that means that there is a good chance that a young person in the Metro is going to be involved in a serious accident that could take their life or the lives of others.
The statistics are there. Every year the leading cause of death among people ages 16-20 is automobile accidents. By the time most people are 25 they know someone who has died or was seriously injured in a traffic accident.
The Missouri Department of Transportation spends countless hours trying to educate all drivers but especially young people on the dangers and risks of driving. The Arrive Alive program is one that most people can claim to know about.
The part of the program that is geared toward teens focuses on three main areas: Seat belts, distracted driving and impaired driving. All three are important but the first safety step begins and ends with seat belts.
In Missouri, only 67 percent of teen drivers wear their seat belts when driving or riding in a car. That number lags behind the national average. That means that a third of all teen drivers are riding around without any restraint and could become missiles at the time of a crash.
“If you skipped physics in high school or flunked it and then you have an automobile accident without your seatbelt it will bring home one of the first laws of physics very quickly,” MoDot spokesperson Stephen Porter said. “The most important thing to understand though is traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 15-20 years old. That is the case all the way up to your early 30s but particularly in this young group. In 2011 1 in 4 of Missouri traffic crashes involved a young driver under the age of 21.”
In previous years the number of teen driver fatalities was on the decline in Missouri. This year that trend has reversed and the numbers are going up. The number of traffic fatalities is up 9 percent from the same time last year.
Another focus for is distracted driving. Distracted driving of any kind causes 80 percent of all traffic accidents. Whether it is texting, talking on the phone or messing with the radio any time your eyes or focus is not on the road there is the potential for a crash. The numbers for teen drivers are staggering as more than 50 percent of teen drivers admit to texting while driving. That means that a driver who is texting spends 400 percent more time with their eyes off the road than a driver that isn’t texting.
“We work with high schools throughout Kansas and Missouri about making sound decisions,” Porter said. “It really comes down to decisions, making sound decisions. The first decision you should make when get in a car is to buckle up. Among the other decisions is don’t be distracted. Turn off the cell phone, just turn it off. You don’t need to be texting, it’s against the Law. You shouldn’t be talking on the cell phone, it doesn’t matter if you are a teen driver or an adult, it’s distracting, it’s dangerous.”
The final focus is impaired driving. In Missouri almost 30 percent of all fatalities are caused by impaired drivers. This number becomes more real when you look at the numbers from just last year. In 2011, 867 people were seriously injured and 218 people were killed in impaired driving accidents.
MoDot works tirelessly to get the message out so these catastrophic numbers go the other way. There are many programs that MoDot offers to help drive the point home to young drivers.
“We’ve been very successful over the last five years in reducing serious injury and fatal accidents,” Porter said. “We have gone from well over 1,000 in Missouri five or six years ago to 785 last year but that trend is changing.
“The worst profile to have if you are thinking of fatalities would be a teenage male driver that is distracted, aggressive, in a hurry, in a pickup and unbelted. That is the juncture of all things that may lead to a fatality. The more of those you eliminate the better off you will be. You can’t do anything about your age, you can only grow older and wiser but you can be more mature than your age and you can act that way.”
For more information go to www.savemolives.org
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