Teens Still Crazy Over Texting While Driving

What seems to be a plethora of studies and research prove that text messaging while driving is dangerous. Despite this, a new Pew Research study (.PDF) shows that 1/3 of teens aged 16 and 17 text while driving.

Here are some of the highlights, or rather, lowlights, of the report:
  • 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 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.
Worse, some teens are flippant about texting while driving, and feel unconcerned about the possible dangers. This sort of "belief in their invulnerability" is something quite common among teens, and not restricted to texting while driving.
Said one high-school aged boy: “I think it’s fine ... And I wear sunglasses so the cops don’t see [my eyes looking down].” Likewise, another high school-aged girl wrote that she texts “all the time,” and that “everybody texts while they drive (.,.) like when I’m driving by myself I’ll call people or text them ‘cause I get bored.” One older high school-aged boy explained that he limits his texting while driving only if his parents are around: “I’m fine with it, just not with my mom and dad in the car. Like when I’m with my brother, I do it.”

Teens did make a distinction between reading text messages and sending them. “There’s a difference, I think,” said one older high school boy. “Because just reading a text isn’t that bad, it’s just reading and then moving on. If you’re texting, it’s going to take more time when you’re supposed to be driving, and that’s when most people get in accidents.”
It's actually not much better to read vs. write when texting while driving. In either case, your attention is diverted from the road in front of you and onto your device's screen.

Fortunately, not all are so casual about texting while driving. One high school boy in a focus group, when asked about riding with drivers who text, said: “Not if they know what’s good for them. I’ll snatch the phone out of your hands – don’t be driving in the car with me and doing that ... I want to live until the end of this car ride.”

The study is based on a telephone survey on teens’ and parents’ use of mobile phones and 9 focus groups conducted in 4 U.S. cities between June and October 2009 with teens between the ages of 12 and 18. The quantitative results in this study were based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between June 26 and September 24, 2009, among a sample of 800 teens ages 12-17 and a parent or guardian.