Pubdate: Sat, 22 Oct 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Robin Baranyai
Page: A13


Here's a sobering fact: One in four teens involved in a fatal
collision tests positive for marijuana. It's a devastating,
preventable loss. Young drivers, inexperienced by definition, are
already at significantly higher risk for motor vehicle collision than
any other age group. When they smoke pot, the risk doubles.

Twenty-one per cent of teens have gotten behind the wheel within an
hour of using drugs, according to data compiled by Parachute, a
national charity dedicated to injury prevention. In fact, drug use has
overtaken alcohol as a factor in fatal collisions - and young drivers
are no exception.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of fatally injured teen drivers who
were drinking dropped from 40.3 to 36.6 per cent, while the number
using drugs jumped dramatically to 39.2 from 23.6 per cent.

Driving sober can be just as deadly, if the driver's attention is
divided between the road and a screen. "Distracted driving is a
significant factor in collisions with young drivers," says Parachute
interim CEO Pamela Fuselli.

The non-profit organizes National Teen Driver Safety Week to change
behaviours. The 2016 promotion, which concluded Friday, targets
drug-impaired and distracted driving.

The week-long campaign reflects community proclamations, provincial
support, and partnerships with police enforcement agencies and public
health units. One innovative approach is the PARTY (Prevent Alcohol
and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) program at Sunnybrook Hospital. High
school classes learn about the dangers of distracted driving,
impairment and speeding - then tour the hospital's rehabilitation
facilities and, ultimately, the morgue. It's like a scared-straight
driver's education video come vividly to life.

Other communities organize traffic blitzes with police, or positive
ticketing campaigns for good driver behaviour.

Do public awareness campaigns really make a difference? It's hard to
measure - a wide combination of factors can influence driver
behaviour. "We know from research that education is one component,"
Fuselli says, "but it's not enough." Effective injury reduction relies
on a three-pronged approach she calls "the three Es": education,
environment and enforcement.

Fuselli notes the success in attaining a cultural shift around
seatbelt use. Widespread behaviour modification was effected through
environmental change (manufacturing cars with seatbelts), laws to
enforce use, and education. Today, she says, Canada has achieved about
95 to 96 per cent compliance with seatbelt use. "We are looking for a
similar culture change for distracted driving," she says.

Ironically, social media - which most kids check on their phone - are
vital tools in helping spread the message. Public awareness campaigns
are hash-tagged and shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Messaging is brief, impactful and relatable.

One emotional example is the short video #ItCanWait, the latest in a
series created for AT&T. It asks teen drivers to give reasons for
using their phones, then records their reactions when they meet a
young woman severely impacted by a distracted driver. An accompanying
social media pledge asks people to share a photo of themselves
affirming, "It can wait."

Some drivers rationalize they're being cautious by checking their
messages at a stoplight or talking hands-free. But research from the
American Automobile Association shows drivers remain distracted for up
to 27 seconds after their call ends.

It's a helpful reminder to all of us, as National Teen Driver Safety
Week draws to a close: There's too much at stake.
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MAP posted-by: Matt