The first federal statistics out on teen texting and driving reveal that more than half of all high school seniors admit to texting while driving.
Recent studies have found that safe texting when driving is not possible, with distracted driving a growing issue along with related accidents and deaths. The new, national, anonymous survey, conducted in 2011 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), revealed that 58% of the high school senior students—and 43% of high school juniors—surveyed admitted to having texted or emailed on their devices while driving, in just the prior month, said the Associated Press (AP).
“I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised at all,” Vicki Rimasse, told the AP. It was Rimasse’s son’s texting in traffic that led to a fender bender this year. Rimasse put her son, Dylan Young, in a safe-driving class following the accident. “I felt like an idiot,” the 18-year-old told the AP. “It caused me to be a lot more cautious,” he said, while also admitting that he does still text when driving.
The CDC released the results this week, said the AP, which pointed out that while some prior studies suggested that the incidence of teen texting when driving was common, the studies did not reveal that the practice was as high as it is, said the AP. The study, which asked about texting and driving for the first time this year, is conducted every two years.
Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center in Washington, studies teens’ use of technology and said she wasn’t surprised, said the AP. Lenhart pointed out that teens typically send and receive some 100 text message each day, which includes when teens are in cars, even on short drives. “A lot of teens say, ‘Well, if the car’s not moving and I’m at a stoplight or I’m stuck in traffic, that’s OK,'” Lenhart told the AP, which noted that she has conducted teen focus groups on texting and driving.
While some teens concede that the practice is unsafe, they believe it is safer to hold the phone up so they can see the road and text simultaneously, said Lenhart. The survey did not ask if all texting took place during driving or at standstills.
Prior studies presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in Boston, Massachusetts, found that the mere thought of texting on a mobile device while driving might be enough to cause teens to crash. In fact, studies suggest that teenage drivers who text with their device in any position and teens who just think about texting, are likelier to crash. A number of other studies have revealed that texting or using a cell phone when driving increases risks for motor vehicle accidents, which has prompted bans on the practices in many states. But some argue that the bans actually increase dangers because drivers are more focused on concealing their phones.
Recent research also revealed that simply listening to someone speak on the other end of a cell phone reduces, by 37%, the amount of brain activity associated with driving, compared to driving alone. Other research conducted revealed that making devices hands-free or voice-activated is insufficient to eliminated driver distraction. Meanwhile, federal safety regulators are urging states to adopt near-total bans on the use of cell phones while driving, which applies to hands-free devices, which many drivers mistakenly believe are safer. The unanimous recommendation of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) followed several serious or deadly accidents blamed on drivers’ use of cell phones.