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Survey: Teens Not Sure Texting While Driving Is That Dangerous

State Farm Insurance announced a new survey today that should send us all a message: Teen drivers aren’t convinced that distracted driving is all that dangerous. Despite several years of public education campaigns fighting to cut down on auto accidents caused by driver distraction, teens aren’t taking the point.

The survey, performed by Harris Interactive, involved interviews of some 700 14- to 17-year-old drivers and aspiring drivers. It concluded that far fewer teens believe that texting while driving could get them into a car accident than believe that driving drunk could do so.

“We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to helping teens understand that texting while driving can be every bit as dangerous as drinking while driving,” says State Farm’s Laurette Stiles. “It’s an awareness gap that must be addressed.’

Is Texting While Driving Really as Dangerous as Drunk Driving? Yes.

A 2008 study by the United Kingdom’s Transport Research Laboratory looked at the actual reaction times of drivers aged 17 to 24 who were texting, who were drunk, and who were neither. That study found that typing a text while driving is actually substantially more dangerous than driving drunk.

Researchers found that drivers reacted 35 percent more slowly when typing a text message than comparable drivers who were not texting. By comparison, the drunk drivers reacted only 12 percent more slowly than the sober drivers.

A 2006 University of Utah study found that cell phone use while driving is just as dangerous. Looking at of 22- to 34-year-old drivers, the research showed that the level impairment caused by talking on a cell phone was just as profound as that of intoxication.

Despite that research, the new study found that many teens simply aren’t hearing it — or they aren’t buying it.

Only 36 percent of the teens studied believed that texting could get them into a fatal car accident. 55 percent of those surveyed believed they could be killed if they drove drunk. Similar discrepancies were reported when teens were asked if they thought texting while driving was as likely as drunk driving to cause an auto accident.

The teens’ personal experience played a role in their beliefs about the likelihood of a distracted driver accident. Teens who had personally engaged in texting while driving were more skeptical that doing so could cause an auto accident than those who had never done it.

We need to do better at getting the message out. Wondering if there is anything you can do to help prevent auto accidents caused by distracted driving? The 2006 study also concluded that teens whose parents talked to them about texting and driving were more likely to believe it could be dangerous.


Florida Herald, “Teens not convinced of dangers of texting while driving,” 9/21/10

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