SSPD: Teen Safety Week tackles driving distracted |

SSPD: Teen Safety Week tackles driving distracted

Patty Oakland
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Today is our second day of the inaugural Teen Safety Week, “In the Same ‘Boat.” This is an inter-agency collaboration to promote and cultivate community support and encourage teen safety across the Yampa Valley. The goal is to support teens by bringing awareness to the social challenges they face and connecting them and their parents and guardians with valuable tools and resources available within the community.

Today’s topic is driving distracted, so if you are reading this while driving, stop and read it after you have reached your destination. How many times have you arrived somewhere and don’t remember your drive, or in other words, “How you got there?” We all know how easy it is to get distracted while driving, but teens are more likely than other drivers to be involved in a motor vehicle accident due to distracted driving.

Factors including inexperience, technology and speeding all put teens at risk behind the wheel. There are three main types of distraction. The first is visual, where we “look” somewhere other than the road. The second is manual, which is having our hands somewhere other than the steering wheel. The third is cognitive, which is having our mind somewhere other than the task of driving.

Our vehicles have become an extension of ourselves. High schoolers, how many of you have a locker at school and how many use your vehicle as your locker? And how many of us keep things in our vehicles, to ensure we have it?

While vehicles are another “home” for us in many ways, we must also change our mindset and remember that they are large machines that we must be in charge of. Our actions determine what it does. Regular maintenance, changing seasonal tires, monitoring tire tread, washing, detailing, fueling up and all the other things our vehicles need — let’s face it, we have a relationship with our vehicles that must be a two-way street. For us to continue to push that pedal down and arrive to our destination in a timely manner, our vehicle needs care to get us there.

So, we have the high costs of maintaining our vehicle and we get back and forth to our destinations safely. But when is it because of our actions of driving and when is it luck?

According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are nearly three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those 20 and over. The Colorado Department of Transportation tells us that in Colorado, just this year, we have already had 185 statewide fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes. In the year 2022, there were 759 statewide motor vehicle crash fatalities.

CDOT attributes 277 of those to driving impaired. So, 482 were related to what? Well, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that in 2021, 3,522 people were killed across the United States by distracted driving. The National Safety Council explains that one person in the United States dies every 12 minutes in a motor vehicle crash. And every hour, 620 people are injured in a motor vehicle crash. Through an extensive Google search and multiple resources averaged, there are also more than 10,000 dogs that die in car crashes every year. I know I am getting down the number and statistic rabbit hole, but the point is it is dangerous, and claims and devastatingly disrupts lives every day.

How can we focus on the dangerous task at hand, versus, the many distractions we face every time we sit down behind the wheel? Distracted driving is preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers. To start, focus on the road and remember driving is not the time to multitask.

Keep distractions out of your car and phones and devices in the backseat, so you aren’t tempted to use them. Set your music or radio before you start driving. Have set rules for your passengers to follow, such as not distracting you and paying attention to the road with you.

Also know the Colorado Teen Driving Restriction laws found at by the Colorado Department of Transportation. These restrictions include passenger rules for the first year of licensure, mandatory use of seatbelts and no cell phone usage while driving under the age of 18 years old. Also, for the first year as a licensed driver, there is no driving between midnight and 5 a.m. (exceptions listed on the website).

Remember nothing is more important than driving when you are on the road. Stay focused, get there safe, and then continue with all of the other things in your life! Stay safe out there.

Yampa Valley Teenagers, we care about you and the choices you make. Don’t drive distracted. Come to the Teen Safety Fair from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, May 11, to connect with people who are standing up for your safety. Come talk about your concerns and opinions, and other tips that have worked in the past. In the words of my mom, make good choices.

For information or to get involved, visit or email me at

Patty Oakland
John F. Russell

Patty Oakland is the civilian investigator for the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

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