The day your teen starts driving can be a scary one. The roads can be dangerous and distracted driving is a common behavior.
That’s why it’s important to talk to your kids about focusing on the task at hand while behind the wheel – and setting a good example by avoiding the same distractions yourself.
To combat the problem, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) launched a new campaign last month reminding motorists of the dangers of distracted driving. Our efforts on this campaign will last through the end of March, but we hope the message persists long after.
Our message to motorists is “Just drive. That’s it.” We hear that advice all the time but the truth is you can become distracted by something as simple as adjusting the radio or glancing at a map, not to mention texting while driving, taking a bite of your lunch, or fixing your hair in the mirror.
And teens are more likely than any other driver to be involved in a crash. They’re also more likely to be distracted at the wheel. A 2016 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 60 percent of teen crashes are caused by distracted driving. Surprisingly, it’s not cell phones that are the biggest culprits. Teens are most likely to be distracted by their passengers.
The CCSO offers the Teen Driver Challenge program to students with their permits and licenses. Sgt. Thad Rhodes said the two-day class focuses on driving laws and the dangers of distracted driving. And teens aren’t the only ones engaging in distracted driving. Sgt. Rhodes points out that adults are also known for texting while driving. The reason the Teen Driver Challenge targets young adults is to break bad habits early.
The CCSO launched the “Just Drive” campaign during season to reach the highest number of people. Throughout the end of the month, you’ll notice ads and statistics on our social media accounts, and even on electronic signs throughout the county. Our deputies focusing on traffic enforcement will be handing out window clings with our message on it. You might also receive an informational brochure about the dangers of distracted driving.
Last year, 10 percent of all crashes through-out Collier County were caused by some kind of distracted driving and more than 100 people were injured in one of those crashes when the driver used a cell phone or other electronic communication device. In 2015, eight people died in distracted driving crashes throughout our county.
For more information about our Teen Driver Challenge program, visit www.colliersheriff.org/we-can-help/traffic-safety/teen-driver-challenge.
Classes are full through May, but you can call to be added to a waiting list. June classes are scheduled for June 28 at Osceola Elementary and June 29 at Barron Collier High School. In July, classes will be held on July 12 at Barron Collier and July 26 at Osceola.
“Help keep our roads safe,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “When you’re behind the wheel, just drive. That’s it.”