Families, officers and officials gathered at Birmingham High School on Monday as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week to raise awareness of teen deaths caused by reckless and distracted driving.
"It was the wrong choice and if you think that those small choices do not have an impact, actually those choices can change your life," speaker Gonazalo Aranguiz told the crowd. In February 2013, Aranguiz struck and killed a bicyclist after reaching down to pick up his phone from his car floor. In detailing the guilt he felt and the effects of his actions, Aranguiz and several others who spoke stressed the dire need to drive carefully and pay attention to the road.
Annual National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 16-22, is dedicated to raising awareness of the preventable nature of most teen motor vehicle deaths. In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds, with 2,679 teens involved in fatal accidents in 2014. In Los Angeles, 20 percent of all vehicle-related deaths involved drivers 15- to 24-years-old, though the age group only accounts for 8 percent of all drivers. Eighty percent of these deaths resulted from driver inattention and distracted driving, including texting while driving.
Richard Stewart, assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol, noted how texting, driving, and even eating, all play a part in teen car accidents. Deaths and injuries from distracted driving are "absolutely preventable," he said. Despite the fact that drivers using hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into an injurious car crash, 48 percent of teens report texting while driving.
"No text, no call, no issue on your phone is more important than driving safely," said Matt Dababneh, the California assemblymember of the 45th District. Around the country, events and assemblies are scheduled throughout National Teen Driver Safety week to continue to raise awareness to the issue and bring an end to distracted driving related deaths.
Reach Staff Reporter Lizzy Gunn here.
Lauren Day contributed. Reach her here.