"Don't text and drive." The message is simple, but are teens really hearing it? A new study finds that far too many are not.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently undertook a study with two goals in mind, to find out how prevalent teen texting and driving is, and to learn if there is a connection between texting and driving and other risky behaviors behind the wheel. For the study, researchers used data from the CDC's 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which asked 8,505 driving-aged teenagers about their experiences with texting while driving in the 30 days prior to the survey. The survey also asked teens about their other behaviors in a car over the last 30 days such as seat belt use, whether or not they had been a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking, and whether or not they had driven after drinking.
The results are pretty surprising.
The study found that roughly 45 percent of driving-aged teens admitted to texting and driving. And of those who did, 25 percent admitted that this was a regular habit they did every day. The prevalence of texting while driving increased with age from 33 percent for 16-year-olds to 58 percent for students aged 18 years or older. The rate also varied by gender and race with the highest incidences occurring among white males. Fifty-one percent of white students admitted to texting while driving compared to 30 percent of black students. At 46 percent, male students also had higher prevalence of texting while driving than female students at 42 percent.
As if this weren't scary enough, the study also found that teens who admit to texting while driving, also engage in other risky behaviors behind the wheel. The link between texting while driving and drinking while driving was the strongest. Researchers found that teens that text and drive are five times more likely to drive when they had been drinking alcohol than students who did not text and drive. Students who texted while driving were also more likely to be irregular seat belt wearers and to ride in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Still think your teen is safe behind the wheel or with other teen drivers? The good news is that the majority of teens are not texting while driving or engaging in these other behaviors — but it's a slim majority. And just because your teen isn't doing it doesn't mean that they aren't riding in cars with other teens who are. Experts say that they best method of prevention is still parental intervention. So it's worth having another chat with your teen about what's safe and what's not and what to do if they find themselves in a car with a driver of any age that's texting.