Hawaii teens learn about the dangers of distracted driving

Teens put their driving skills to the test at "Operation Driver Excellence."

No talking, no texting, no distractions. That’s the message the Department of Education, along with other private companies, are trying to get across to teens.

Experts say distracted driving comes in three forms.

  • Visual: Where you take your eyes off the road.
  • Physical: Eating and drinking, or grabbing a cell phone.
  • Mental: When your mind is elsewhere.

“If you’re not focused 100 percent on your front windshield, then you’re distracted. You’re gonna get into a collision. It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when it’s going to happen,” said David Kaeka of SWERVE Fleet Training.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 3,000 deaths a year are due to texting while driving.

Studies show that drinking and driving rates have remained about the same. But the alarming trend is that distracted driving is on the rise.

“Is this becoming a bigger problem in Hawaii?” KHON2 asked.

“I’m hoping not, but with teenagers, they love to text each other. That’s their mode of communication. So for them, it’s very natural to just text one another. So to them, they don’t see that as a problem when they drive,” said Jan Meeker, a resource teacher with the Department of Education.

Meeker says there’s even an app that teens can download on their smartphones called, “Lifesaver.” The mobile app automatically locks the cell phone while the car’s in motion, preventing the driver from using it.

Experts say parents also play a big role in educating teen drivers. A father and son flew all the way from Maui to participate in the free event.

“Overall, it kind of brought us together, like in a good way, and also with other parents, so I really believe it would be something wonderful for parents to kind of hang with their son or their daughter and go through this course. And really, ’cause both perspectives it shows overall, here’s your strengths and your weakness,” said Stanley Puaa, a parent of a teen driver.

“How does it change your perspective?” KHON2 asked.

“I know to be aware and to not do that I guess. You could get into accidents or very hard times,” said Kanale Poaipuni-Puaa, a teen driver.

For more information on distracted driving and traffic safety, visit this website.

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