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More Teens Texting, Using Cell Phones While Driving, Study Finds

Oct 25, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
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Teens are using cell phones more than ever before. What’s more, according to a recent Pew Research Center Study, many are using cell phones in ways that are dangerous, with more than a third admitting that they have sent a text message while driving.

Using a cell phone while driving is often a recipe for disaster. According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, 995 of 5,474 p traffic accident fatalities involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction. In fact, cell phone use played a role in 18 percent of all fatal distracted driving crashes.

According to the Pew study, some 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones, up from 45 percent in 2004. Fully 72 percent of all teens — or 88 percent of teen cell phone users — are text-messagers – up from the 51 percent of teens who were texters in 2006. More than half of teens (54 percent) are daily texters, the Pew study found. Among all teens, their frequency of use of texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends.

The study also found that teens are sending enormous quantities of text messages a day. Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month.

Most disturbingly, 34 percent of teens aged 16-17 admitted to texting while driving. According to the Pew study, that translates into 26 percent of all American teens ages 16-17.

Other findings on cell phone use and driving included:

• Half (52 percent) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43 percent of all American teens ages 16-17.

• 48 percent of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.

• 40 percent say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

Boys and girls are equally likely to report texting behind the wheel as well as riding with texting drivers. As teens get older, they are more likely to report riding with drivers who text.

“Cell phones are often seen as devices that can make our lives more efficient, allowing us to multi-task in our idle moments,” said Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and co-author of the report, “and whether you’re a teenager or an adult, it’s tempting to think you can manage several different activities at once.”

The Pew study was based on the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey which obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 800 teens age 12-to-17 years-old and their parents living in the continental US and on 9 focus groups conducted in 4 US cities in June and October 2009 with teens between the ages of 12 and 18.

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