To demonstrate the perils of distracted driving, Fairfax County Police put some teens behind the wheel at the county's Emergency Vehicle Operations Course Tuesday morning.
In the test Tuesday, students drove while officers demonstrated the effects of distracted driving, simulating a three-second increase in driver reaction time.
The test track included demonstration of disaster, such as hitting a person pushing a stroller. “It's definitely going to make never want to look at my phone while driving,” said Bobby Warhurst.
Just a few seconds of texting can affect reaction time, officers showed. Kaitlyn Lunsford, a senior at Fairfax High School says this exercise is going to change the way she drives.
“I'm learning a lot and I'm not going to text and drive anymore,” she said.
A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found nearly 80 percent of all crashes involved distracted drivers, police said.
Captain Susan Culin, commander of the Fairfax police traffic division called distracted driving “a serious problem."
"We see it every day; every where; it’s become an epidemic on our roadways," Capt. Culin said.
Police have conducted a nine-month initiative to reduce the number of distracted-driving incidents. The program has included forums in schools, training sessions for officers, a survey of public attitudes and behaviors.
Police also released the facts and figures from their nine-month enforcement initiative, including a survey on the prevalence of texting-while-driving.
In Fairfax County, one in five people ticketed for distracted driving is under the age of 20. A heavy-duty enforcement effort over the past few years along with the popularity of texting sparked an almost one hundred percent increase in the number of teens getting distracted-driving tickets.
Corey Foley says texting while driving caused him to hit another car. “I looked down for probably two, two and a half seconds and I definitely rear-ended the vehicle in front of me,” Foley said.
Overall, the number of citations for distracted driving increased by a 48 percent over the past nine months compared to the same time in the previous year (4,669 vs. 6,889), according to the report.
May is designated as Youth Traffic Safety month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
View data on crashes involving teenagers in the Fairfax police Teen Crash Map (PDF)
For more information on the new campaign or distracted driving issues, please contact the Traffic Division at 703-280-0500.