Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does your teen text and drive?

This study found 75 percent of American teenagers own a cell phone and 66 percent of them send and receive text messages.

Distracted driving has been a hot topic this year with morestatewide bans, a government summit addressing the issues and looking at solutions, and even a graphic anti-texting videoshowing the risks. But the messages may not be hitting home with teen drivers. A new study shows that a quarter of American teens have texted while driving—dangerous behavior for a group that statistically, already carries significant risks when behind the wheel.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey of 800 teens aged 12-17 years and asked about their behaviors with cell phone use in cars. Additionally, they conducted focus groups with teens in collaboration with University of Michigan. The study found 34 percent of teens with cell phones say they have texted while driving, which translates into 26 percent of all American teens. Fifty-two percent of teens ages 16-17 in the study admit to talking on the cell phone while driving, which translates into 43 percent of all U.S. teens aged 16-17.

The statistics on teen drivers is worrisome; motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2008, 16 percent of drivers in fatal crashes under the age of 20 were related to distracted driving. That age group had the greatest proportion of fatalities due to distracted driving. Overall, in 2008, 5,870 people died and an estimated 515,000 were injured in crashes where distracted driving was reported by police.

Cell phones have become an integral part of society, especially in teenagers. The study found 75 percent of American teenagers own a cell phone and 66 percent of them send and receive text messages. The teens who were part of the focus group stated a number of reasons why they text and drive, including to determine the whereabouts of their friends and parents, to get directions, and to flirt. They also report trying a number of techniques to text safely, including only texting while stopped or holding up the phone at eye level, so their head isn’t down. (Any distraction poses a risk, but activities that take your eyes off the road for a sustained period are dangerous, and the situation is made worse when a hand, or hands, or not on the steering wheel.) The study also noted that 48 percent of teens aged 12-17 say they have been in a car with a texting driver and a number of them reported the risky behavior was from their parents. Some teens found it disconcerting, but others thought their parents were good drivers and could handle their phones safely. (See “Video: Taylor Swift SNL spoof mocks bad parent drivers.”)

The distracted driving issue is a real danger, and the solutions are not so easily and quickly implemented. The responsibility may need to fall on parents first to set their own rules and guidelines for cell phone use by their teen drivers. However, that also goes along with adjusting their own distracted driving behavior, so they aren’t sending a mixed message that talking or texting behind the wheel is safe for some and not for others.

Liza Barth

1 comment:

text while driving said...

Distracted driving has been a hot topic this year. Teens are very busy person they can't stay without text while driving which leads to accidents but I am happy that I am not distracted when receiving in coming text messages. I use mobile application and I drive without losing concentration.