To the Editor:
With Covid-19 restrictions lifting and the conclusion of the academic year, this summer presents a well-deserved opportunity for North Carolinians for rejuvenation, celebration, and to reunite with friends and family; however, summer also brings a public health crisis that goes often overlooked – traffic safety.
The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is statistically the most dangerous time of year for young drivers. These “100 Deadliest Days” see a 21% increase in teen fatalities due to traffic collisions. This danger can be attributed to a rise in travel, substance use, and distractions while driving. North Carolina SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) is joining a national effort to remind everyone of the simple steps drivers and passengers can take to make this the “safest summer ever.”
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the 2020 year saw 114 more traffic fatalities than 2019, despite the decrease in driving due to stay-at-home orders. Additionally, statewide seat belt use has decreased over the past two years. A 2020 seat belt survey conducted by the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program estimates that only 87.1% of NC drivers and passengers consistently buckle up. Distracted driving also continues to increase. A 2019 CDC survey found that 39% of high school students texted or emailed while behind the wheel. That year, data supplied by the NC DMV concluded that over 10,000 teens crashed due to this distracted driving.
This data makes entering the summer months even more concerning for North Carolina teens. Throughout the summer NC SADD, along with tens of thousands of student members across the nation, will remind all drivers to take simple steps to keep traffic safety in mind through social media campaigns. These steps include: use a seat belt every trip, every time. Drive sober. If you feel different, you drive differently. Keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and avoid distracted driving.
Teens are so excited for summer and to travel that it’s easy to forget auto-collisions are a leading cause of teen fatalities in America. The last thing anyone wants is for a crash to interrupt summer celebrations or worse. I advise students not to wait until a collision to change negative driving habits. By remembering traffic safety, you will protect yourself and others to ensure a fun and safe summer.
Beyond practicing safe driving, students and adults can join our ongoing campaigns to increase traffic safety in your community. Individuals or groups can join North Carolina SADD for free to access resources to tools related to youth health and safety initiatives, including mental health, substance use prevention, and leadership development. Please visit nc.sadd.org to join and learn more or follow us on social media @SADDnc.
NC State Coordinator for SADD
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