Extra Credit: How Florida Schools are Teaching the Dangers of Distracted Driving

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report last year that gave a disturbing overview of distracted driving behavior since 2011. According to this report, more than 3,330 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2011. In addition, another 387,000 people were injured in accidents that were attributed to distracted drivers. Because of these statistics, the government set up Distraction.gov, a website dedicated to preventing distracted driving.

Unfortunately, young drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes or near crashes that involve the use of a mobile phone—one of the most common forms of distracted driving—according to NHTSA. To combat this along with other causes of distracted driving, Florida's high schools have been working hard to educate their students about this dangerous and growing problem.

Motivational Speakers and Assemblies

Some schools are using assemblies to make their students aware of the dangers of distracted driving. For example, in 2012, George Jenkins High School in Lakeland held a "Put It Down" assembly for its students. Additionally, West Boca High School in Boca Raton held assemblies for its students that included driving simulators to demonstrate the dangers of taking one's eyes off the road.

Individual students are also doing their part—Erica Sheets of Edgewood Jr./Sr. High in Merritt Island recently put together an assembly for her school that discussed the death of two people, a 42-year-old and a 19-year-old, and how the accident that caused their deaths was likely due to distracted driving.

Public Service Announcements

In September of 2013, Florida put a new law into effect that prohibited texting while driving. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) worked extensively to make sure the message made it into schools, and shared public service announcements with high schools. According to the Palm Beach Post, the FHP asked schools to play the 15-second clip during their daily announcements. In addition, members of the FHP's public affairs staff went to each high school to hammer home the dangers of texting while driving.

Home Instruction

It's imperative that parents be involved in teaching their children the importance of safe driving, and stress the dangers associated with distracted driving. As your child prepares for his driving permit, encourage him to participate in a Florida permit practice test as he becomes familiar with the basics and rules of the road. Create a conversation around the types of driving distractions, and discuss ways that they can be avoided. Involve the whole family in creating a list of potential distractions such as phone calls, texts, social media, the radio, food and beverages, and other passengers, and talk openly about ways your child can take steps to ensure those scenarios don't become an issue while he's behind the wheel.



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