Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Cell phone use by teenagers remains a dangerous problem
Itâ€™s a phone call no one wants to get. The one that breaks the news that a loved one has been injured, possibly fatally, in a car accident.
Trent Faulkner, driverâ€™s education instructor at Sun Valley High School, got such a phone call two years ago about his mother, Cecelia Pearce.
â€œShe was talking to her husband on her cell phone and we believe she either dropped it or she was talking and not paying attention,â€ Faulkner said. â€œShe pulled out in an intersection and was T-boned by a truck in Concord.â€
Faulkner often uses this as an example when teaching driverâ€™s education. â€œMy mother was killed because she was messing with her cell phone,â€ he said. â€œShe was 69 years old. Texting or using the cell phone is not age prejudice.â€
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.
â€œIt is a problem. Iâ€™m directing traffic into the school parking lot in the morning â€“ students are on their cell phones texting,â€ Faulkner said. â€œIf theyâ€™re texting when they come into the parking lot in the morning, what are they doing on the road?â€
According to the National Safety Council, 28 percent of traffic accidents occur from cell phone use and texting while driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that drivers talking on cell phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, and that 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 oneâ€™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 canâ€™t react to obstacles in front of his car. â€œPeople are going to stop in front of you,â€ Faulkner said. â€œThe number one cause of accidents in North Carolina is rear-end collisions.â€
Kailey Mann, 15, a Sun Valley High School sophomore, said she often witnesses teenagers using cell phones while driving. â€œI know itâ€™s against the law, but I have friends who text in the car when theyâ€™re driving and fidget with their iPod, as well.â€
Austin Lingle, 15, also a sophomore at Sun Valley High, says texting while driving is especially problematic with teenagers. â€œA lot of kids do it, but itâ€™s not safe. If youâ€™re texting, you have your eyes off the road and something could happen right in front of you and you canâ€™t even see it. Thereâ€™s a wreck right there. Cell phones get you distracted, and if youâ€™re not thinking of driving, youâ€™re distracted.â€
Ultimately, Faulkner said it might take a tragedy to make young adults realize the dangers of cell phone use while driving. â€œUnfortunately, 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 theyâ€™re invincible until it actually happens.â€
The problem of distracted driving due to cell phone use, however, is not just a problem with teenagers. Being careless can affect any age. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s against the law for anyone, no matter the age, to text while driving.
â€œI donâ€™t care how old you are, if youâ€™re texting youâ€™re not looking at the road,â€ Faulkner said. â€œYouâ€™re a hazard to other people on the road. Itâ€™s just as big a hazard as drunk driving.â€
Kailey said she feels cell phone use while driving should be prohibited for adults as well as people under the age of 18.
â€œYou shouldnâ€™t be able to use your cell phone at all in the car,â€ Kailey said. â€œEven if youâ€™re an experienced driver and youâ€™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 youâ€™re emotionally distracted and not paying attention to the road.â€
Faulkner said the solution to reducing the problem among teenagers could be parental guidance. â€œIf parents want to keep their kids off of their cell phones, they need to exercise the proper techniques themselves,â€ Faulkner said. â€œKids learn by example.â€
How to stop parents from being distracted by cell phone use may involve something much more tragic, as Faulkner can attest.
Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 06, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe