Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen – the father of two teenage boys - has joined a national public service campaign featuring scenes from the award-winning television series “Glee” to help educate young adult drivers on the dangers of texting while driving. The campaign is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the State Attorneys General, Consumer Protection Agencies, and the Ad Council, with Twentieth Century Fox Television and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles reported last month that since tougher teen driving laws took effect four years ago, the number of teen drivers killed in crashes dropped from 7 in 2007 to one in 2011. NHTSA reports that in 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted driving, which includes texting while driving.
The new television and digital public service announcements (PSAs) employ a catastrophic crash scene from “Glee,” caused by texting and driving, to emphasize that distracted driving can have horrific consequences.
The PSAs direct young adult drivers to the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign web site, StopTextsStopWrecks.org, where teens and young adults can find facts about the impact of texting while driving and tips for how to curb the behavior. Three key facts are cited:
- Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field. (2009, VTTI)
- A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into an accident than a non-texting driver. (2009, VTTI)
- Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
Connecticut law prohibits use of handheld cell phones and texting while driving. Fines range from $125 for a first offense to $400 for a third or subsequent offense. For teenage drivers, the state DMV will suspend the driver’s license or learner’s permit of a 16- or 17-year-old for 30 days to six months for any conviction of violating a teen driving restriction or using a cell phone or text messaging device while driving. Those teens will have to pay a $175 license restoration fee as well as court fines.
According to a new national survey conducted by the Ad Council, the message may be getting through. Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they never text while driving, a significant increase from 28 percent in 2011. All of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.