Texas sees drop in teenage driving deaths on the road

Car crashes remain the number one cause of teenage deaths in the United States. (File photo)

Oct. 15-21 marks National Teen Driver Safety Week and law enforcement officials are encouraging teens to put down the phones and limit distractions when behind the wheel.

Car crashes remain the number one cause of teenage deaths in the United States. Reports show that deaths involving teenage drivers are down 47 percent over the last decade. In Texas, they have dropped 27 percent.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 112 fatalities occurred in 2016 of drivers between the ages of 13-19. In the last decade, that number has decreased by almost half. In 2006, there were 206 teenage fatalities that occurred in Texas.

Sgt. Cindy Barkley with the Texas Department of Public Safety said an increase in education has helped contribute to the decrease in teen driver deaths. She said education starts with parents.

“Just simply by setting a good example," Barkley said. "Don’t use your cellphone while driving, keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on driving when your kids are in the car, especially.”

Barkley said distractions are all around us and are not limited to just texting and being on the phone.

“A simple conversation with a passenger in your vehicle or turning around to possibly discipline your child in the car, messing with your radio system, changing out CD's [and] all of the new technology in cars can be very distracting," Barkley said. "That can take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, 47 percent of teens who died in car crashes in 2015 were not wearing their seat belts.

Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said seat belts will save your life.

“When you get in the car and the door shuts or even before the door shuts, that should be the first thing [you] automatically [do]," Sheriff Thomas said. "That should be one of those things and you should go ‘how did that seat belt get on?’ because you’re just so used to doing it. That seat belt will save your life and it can save your life."

Sheriff Thomas said teenagers have to just focus on driving when behind the wheel.

When dealing with cell phones and responding to text messages, Barkley said it is not worth it.

"It can wait," Barkley said.

According to the Amarillo Police Department, the City of Amarillo has had zero teen driver deaths so far in 2017 and only two in 2016, which APD officials said were not caused by distracted driving.

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