Driving while distracted by a cellphone is at least as great a threat to teen drivers as drinking and driving.
Almost 80 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 own cellphones, and many more teens use cellphones regularly than drink alcohol regularly. Cellphone use is an all-day, everyday activity for many young people, who rely on their phones to remain constantly connected to friends and the rest of the world.
About 25 percent of teens say they respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.
That’s why DeKalb High School’s involvement this year in the “Celebrate My Drive” campaign is encouraging news.
The campaign is sponsored by State Farm, and encourages high school students 14 and older to sign an online pledge not to drive while distracted. There are 10 grants of $100,000 available, and 90 grants of $25,000, with the top two schools in both a large and small school category winning a concert by “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson.
DeKalb was in ninth place among large schools as of Tuesday evening.
The school has until Saturday to solicit pledges, and if you’re older than 14, you can help them by logging on to celebratemydrive.com and pledging not to drive while distracted by text messages, fast food or fantasy football scores. Then cast your vote for DeKalb High School. A person can vote once a day.
Texting while driving is probably the most dangerous activity because it causes the driver to take their eyes off the road for almost 5 seconds, which at 55 mph is the equivalent of driving 100 yards without watching the road.
A lot can happen in 5 seconds. In 2011, more than 3,300 people were killed in traffic crashes involving distracted drivers, U.S. Department of Transportation data shows.
The Celebrate My Drive campaign encourages teens and adults to do the right thing, be responsible and pay attention to the road while driving.
If you haven’t already, take the pledge. And vote for DeKalb to help a local school win some money.