The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just published the results of a study on distracted driving behavior amongst teenagers which shows that teens are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, but they choose to do it anyway.
After surveying 800 teens in 4 US cities over the summer of 2009, Pew estimates that 26% of all American teens 16-17 have texted while driving, and 43% have talked on a cell phone while driving.
Even more alarming is that 48% of teens 12-17 have witnessed someone else texting while driving, which points to an ambivalence and acceptance of the practice. The findings also indicate that even state laws prohibiting these activities may not be discouraging newly licensed drivers from using their mobile devices while behind the wheel.
Here are the major findings from the survey and focus groups (courtesy of Pew Research Center):
- 75% of all American teens ages 12-17 own a cell phone, and 66% use their phones to send or receive text messages.
- Older teens are more likely than younger teens to have cell phones and use text messaging; 82% of teens ages 16-17 have a cell phone and 76% of that cohort are cell phone texters.
- One in three (34%) texting teens ages 16-17 say they have texted while driving. That translates into 26% of all American teens ages 16-17.
- Half (52%) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43% of all American teens ages 16-17.
- 48% of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
- 40% say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.
The NHTSA said that 5,870 people died and an estimated 515,000 were injured last year in accidents that police attributed to distracted driving.
That number of fatalities last year was exactly half the number of people who died as a result of drunken driving. The actual number of distracted-driving deaths and injuries is probably much higher than the numbers show. There is nothing like the blood alcohol test to prove that someone was texting — phone records are not clear-cut proof and drivers who cause accidents are no more prone to admit they were texting than they are to say they are drunk.
At a conference he convened to discuss distracted driving, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stressed the importance of parents paying attention to the road to provide a positive example for their children.
The Pew research found that too few do.
“The frequency of teens reporting parent cellphone use behind the wheel in our focus groups was striking, and suggested, in many cases, that texting while driving is a family affair,” the report said.
Click here to read the entire research report in HTML. Or you can alternatively download/read the report in the PDF format shown below.