Traffic Study Helps Improve Teen Drivers [AUDIO]
Teen drivers at five central New Jersey high schools showed they know to buckle their seat belts and not use their cell phones while operating a vehicle, but there is still room for improvement.
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's Injury Prevention Coalition worked with Edison, Howell, Manalapan, Marlboro, North Brunswick, Old Bridge and Scotch Plains-Fanwood High Schools as part of the "Central Jersey High School Traffic Safety Challenge."
Volunteers conducted observational studies at each participating school, collecting data on seat belt usage, distracted driving, as well as overall driving safety during the morning commute for students and staff.
Edison had the highest percentage of unrestrained drivers, with 33 percent, and passengers, at 45 percent.
However as a whole, Diana Starace, injury prevention coordinator at Robert Wood Johnson said most schools performed well.
"The majority of schools are doing really well when we're talking about seat belt usage, but there's always room for improvement," Starace said.
Distracted driving, which in addition to cell phone usage includes drinking while driving, having earphones plugged in, and not paying attention to the road, was also minimal. However, Starace believes the results would have been different had the observations been done in the afternoon.
"In the afternoon, the students at least have not been on their phone all day long," Starace said.
During the observation, volunteers observed the overall manner of vehicles. Starace said they saw many cars speed into the parking lot in order to make it before the bells rang, both students and faculty. Even parents were not immune.
"Because it was raining, kids didn't want to get out far away so parents waited in a line, and if something opened up they just whipped around," Starace said. "I really thought we were going to see either a pedestrian struck or a car crash in the parking lot."
Participating students at each school will be asked to use social media and create banners, posters, flyers, contests, etc. to raise awareness among peers about traffic safety issues and share safe driving tips, with the goal of ultimately improving seat belt usage and safe driving habits.
"While it's important for teens to understand and be aware of potential negative consequences to risky driving behaviors, it's more important that they learn how to prevent issues from happening in the first place," Starace said in a press release. "One way to do that effectively is to get teen drivers to encourage other teen drivers to drive safely."