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Girls, read my text: `Your driving is getting worse’

A newly released study should make auto insurers perk up and take notice. But it should wake some parents up even more. Girls aren't as good drivers any more because they're texting behind the wheel.

Published February 26, 2010
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Anewly released study should make auto insurers perk up and take notice. But it should wake some parents up even more.

Allstate Insurance recently released the results of an independent study conducted in the United States. Long vilified as dangerous demons on the road, boys are actually getting better in some regards, and it’s the girls who are getting worse. And I don’t have to tell you the biggest game-changer, do I? Cellphones and texting.

A few months back before the partial, useless ban on hand-held devices was enacted in Ontario (the distraction from a headset is just as bad), the Poor Sod and I watched a young girl drive, sort of, down a main artery of our city. Traffic was light, which was a good thing. She did weird little lurches toward a green light. We held back.

When she finally stopped at an amber light, we couldn’t see her face. She was texting away, oblivious to all around her. The light changed. Nothing. I rolled down my window and yelled at her. Nothing. She eventually looked up, and pulled from the light still madly punching away at her phone. Dangling from her ears were headphones. What’s socializing with your friends without music?

If you long ago decided that all teens are lousy drivers and this news isn’t, well, news, consider this: at a popular insurance quote provider, I entered identical information for my son, Christopher, 18 and his imaginary twin sister, Christine. The results? Annual insurance on a minivan like mine for Christopher: $5,450 yearly. For Christine: $3,240.

Yet the survey results show that Christine is more likely to be speeding, to be using her cellphone, to be texting, fiddling with the music and driving aggressively. Even more disturbing, young women are less likely to speak up when confronted with being a passenger in risky driving situations.

Males are still more likely to die in a car crash than their female counterparts. Responding to the report, insurance companies say they have no immediate plans to alter their billing practices because not enough females have killed people yet.

I took a little poetic licence with that last sentence.

Driver distraction is a fundamental part of most automobile accidents, right up there with driver error. Texting is a twofer. I don’t even believe in car accidents — it’s hard to come up with a scenario where one couldn’t have been prevented. Drivers refuse to understand their primary focus when they’re driving should be “driving.”

And while sectors of the population may have different distracters, the fact remains we are seeing a segment of drivers with the least experience engaging in the riskiest behaviours.

What do you do? I’d love to say if they have the car, the phone stays home. Not feasible? How about the phone goes in the trunk? How about the phone stays off? A parent can call to check this; it should go right through to voice mail. How about a making a requirement for driving to prove through a scroll check of texts that it wasn’t used in the car?

Driving is a privilege. Enforcing rules is the job of a parent. Don’t wait for the government to do it.

Lorraine Sommerfeld’s column appears Saturdays in Wheels and Mondays in the Star’s Living section.

www.lorraineonline.ca