The number one cause of death of American teens is not shootings, suicides or disease. At the top of the list is distracted driving, says the education and outreach coordinator for Impact Teen Drivers. Heidi Deane says that drunk driving fatalities among teenagers has actually been on the decline, reckless and distracted driving has been on the rise.

“Thirty-seven percent of your brain is gone when you are dealing with a device,” she recently told a gathering of high school students. “Studies have shown that drivers do not perceive the time or the distance it took them to travel the length of a football field while distracted.”

With Oshkosh high school seniors getting ready for graduation ceremonies and parties, their parents just want to see their kids healthy after the celebrations have faded away. It’s incredibly important for teens to stay out of cars with impaired drivers and it’s just as important for drivers of all ages to put their phones away whenever they are behind the wheel.

Deane said that about 4,000 teenagers died in vehicle crashes last year and that 75 percent of those wrecks did not involve alcohol or drugs. Instead, more and more young drivers and passengers are being seriously injured and killed in crashes that happened because the driver was not paying attention to the road and traffic.

She said that far too often teens do not wear seatbelts, which can mean that in crashes, they are violently hurled from vehicles. The results: serious injuries and sometimes deaths.

In crashes, “doors come off a lot,” she said. People who don’t wear seatbelts can be violently thrown from the vehicles and sustain serious injuries and even fatal damage. But when everyone in the vehicle is belted up, “everyone is OK,” she said – even in crashes in which the doors come off.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact a skilled attorney with a track record of success in personal injury and wrongful death litigation.