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News Releases

For Immediate Release

New Children’s Hospital Program Aims to Curb Dangerous Distracted Driving Habits of Teen Drivers

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is launching a new program aimed at curbing distracted driving by teens, which includes talking on cell phones or texting while driving.

The launch of Children’s Hospital's community program, Focus-Action Against Distraction, coincides with National Teen Driver Safety Week, which is being observed Oct. 18 to 24.

The Children’s program, funded through a grant from the Allstate Foundation, will target teen drivers, parents of adolescents and primary care physicians, with the goal of educating teens about the dangers of driving while distracted, according to Barbara A. Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of teens and new research shows distracted driving is rising dramatically. By educating teen drivers themselves, parents of younger teens so they can talk about safe driving several years before they start driving, and primary care physicians who provide physicals before teens can obtain learner’s permits, we hope to make a significant impact on this health crisis,” Dr. Gaines said.

Children’s distracted driving program will:

  • Partner with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapters at North Allegheny and other school districts. Children’s will sponsor a contest in which participating students will develop their own messages against distracted driving and the vehicles for delivering those messages (i.e., a video uploaded to YouTube). The winning submissions will be honored at a Children’s event later this year.
  • Partner with parents of younger teens, helping them understand the risks of distracted driving well before their children are preparing to drive.
  • Partner with primary care providers, who often perform the physicals required for students to be able to obtain a learner’s permit.

Teens are at greatest risk from being killed in distracted driving-related crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. There were 5,870 people killed and 515,000 injured in crashes where at least one form of distracted driving was reported in 2008. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all under-20 drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted when driving.

In addition to the community program, Focus-Action Against Distraction, Children’s launched a highly successful Reality Education Program (RED) for teen drivers in 2003. The program focuses on a high-risk category of drivers — teenagers who have been cited for a moving violation, such as speeding or running a traffic light. Those enrolled in the half-day course usually are referred by the district magistrate presiding over their cases. Parental involvement is required. Completing the program and avoiding additional moving violations usually will erase the initial citation from their record.

For more information about teen driver safety and programs at Children’s Hospital, please visit

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,
Gloria Kreps, 412-586-9764,

Last Update
October 21, 2009
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Last Update
October 21, 2009