EDITORIAL: Teens, please travel safely

York Dispatch
Central High School prom at Wisehaven Saturday, May 14, 2016. Bil Bowden photo

Prom and graduation season remind us that our children are growing up. It is a time when they are making plans, they’re optimistic, and they are preparing to travel on.

We want them to travel safely.

In Pennsylvania, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, according to the Pennsylvania DUI Association. So it’s imperative that as adults, we talk with the teens in our lives about safety. And although they may nod in our general direction as if they have heard it all before, it’s vital that we sit them down and tell them that, statistically speaking, they are at risk.

We must continue to stress that one instance of impaired or distracted driving can mean the end of a lifetime of amazing plans.

Parents of Jackson Twp. teen killed in texting-while-driving crash help launch campaign

Texting is one distraction that can be deadly. In March 2012, Pennsylvania passed a statewide law that prohibits drivers from texting and driving. The fine for violating Pennsylvania’s texting laws is $50.

Local police have admitted the law is difficult to enforce. But national studies indicate that where the laws regarding texting and driving are in place, there is a significant drop in texting and driving fatalities.

York-area police: Texting-while-driving law hard to enforce

Alcohol is another factor in deadly crashes. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), alcohol-related crashes accounted for about 9 percent of the total crashes in 2014, but they accounted for 28 percent of all people killed in crashes.

In 2014, drivers between  21 to 30 had the highest percentage of drinking drivers within their respective age groups. But drivers 16 years old and younger continue to be at risk, and officials remain concerned about them.

Other statistics compiled by PennDOT:

  • In Pennsylvania, drinking and driving remains a top safety issue. In 2014, alcohol-related crashes decreased to 10,550 from 11,041 alcohol-related crashes in 2013. In 2014, alcohol-related deaths decreased to 333 from 381 in 2013.
  • Of particular concern is the involvement of drinking drivers under the age of 21. Thirteen percent of the driver deaths in the 16-20 age group were drinking drivers, down from 19 percent in 2013. Improvement in this age group is a very important need.
  • Of equal focus is the 21 to 25 age group, in which 43 percent of the driver deaths were drinking drivers. This age group had the worst percentage of all groups and was down from 44 percent in 2013. The 26 to 30 age group decreased to 31 percent from 34 percent in 2013.
  • In 2014, alcohol-related deaths were 28 percent of the total traffic deaths, lower than in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
  • Pennsylvania continues to take an aggressive posture to prevent and deter drinking and driving (particularly through the widespread use of sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols).

The good news is, the number of alcohol-related crashes decreased in 2014, according to PennDOT, and were the lowest total in the last five years. Alcohol-related fatalities decreased in 2014 and were the lowest they have been in the past five years.

Overall, alcohol-related fatalities are trending downward. But even one fatality is too many — particularly if we lose a son or daughter with a promising lifetime ahead of them.