03/13/2014 08:57 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Distracted driving top cause of youth crashes in B.C.

ICBC is touring high schools around B.C. warning young people about the dangers of distracted driving, after new numbers reveal distraction is a top cause of youth accidents.

The insurer's statistics show 34 per cent of young drivers involved in crashes resulting in injuries or deaths over the past five years were distracted.

Young women were less likely than young men to be involved in crashes. When they are however, it is most often because they were paying attention to something other than the road. 

Karen Bowman, who founded the distracted driving prevention program Drop It And Drive, knows first hand how dangerous distracted driving can be.

Her daughter Kylee was eight years old when the car she was in was hit by a distracted driver. Three years later, Bowman says her daughter is still dealing with the side-effects. 

"She got a concussion, which has had some short term memory loss challenges for her since then, and she's been diagnosed with [post-traumatic stress disorder] that we are still working through with her," she said.

ICBC takes its message on the road

On Wednesday, ICBC launched its annual road safety speaker tour, which is travelling the province to educate high school students about the importance of safe driving. 

Heidi Cave, a new speaker to the tour, says her life was forever changed when her car was struck by a reckless driver more than 25 years ago. 

"Our choices can have a lasting impact. Because of the car crash I was in, I was in a drug-induced coma for two weeks. I woke up to burns to over half of my body. Both my legs were missing, and I spent seven months in a burn unit going through more than 20 surgeries in a year," she said in an ICBC promotional video.

Still, young people say there are many reasons why someone may drive distracted.

"Temptation to talk to people while you're driving, because your phone's right there. But, you know, because I'm a new driver as well, I don't like to do that just in case," one young women told CBC News.

Not just youth who drive distracted

However, Bowman says statistics that focus solely on young distracted drivers are troubling. 

"One of the things that concerns me about stats like that is it puts too much of a focus on one age group that's already pretty well labelled as the texting generation," she said.

"Those who are texting while driving are adult drivers."

Indeed, police in the Lower Mainland have been tweeting their own observations of distracted driving.

"Phone calls worth $334? Driver gets #DistractedDriving ticket 4:45p on Marine Dr. Caught again just 45 min later for 2nd ticket at LionsGateBr," tweeted West Vancouver Police Department on Tuesday.

On average, ICBC says 39 young people between the ages of 16 and 21 are killed and 7,100 are injured in motor vehicle accidents each year in B.C.