Teenagers are well known for engaging in risky behavior. The group that suffers the highest car accident rate by far has a new safety concern to contend with, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a poll of teenagers concerning risky behaviors, more than half high school seniors acknowledged having texted or emailed while driving some time during the previous month. Texting while driving was referred to as “a national epidemic” by the U.S. Transportation Secretary recently. Many states have passed or are considering laws making the practice illegal.
The poll gathered responses from more than 15,000 high school students all across the nation. Among seniors, 58 percent admitted to texting or emailing while driving. The percentage of juniors who admitted the same thing was 43 percent. This was the first time that such a poll asked students directly about their texting and driving habits.
The average teen sends and receives approximately 100 text messages a day. Many adults do not realize how pervasive this form of communication has become. Given the large volume of texts, it should come as no surprise that teens are not putting away their cell phones while behind the wheel. As authorities crack down on texting and driving violators, it is equally important to help teens understand why texting and driving is unsafe. Changing teens’ attitudes about unsafe driving is likely to be more effective than punishing those who get caught.
Distracted driving is killing people. Teens are already at an elevated risk of accident, due to inexperience and poor decision-making. Texting is a distraction that no driver, particularly a teen driver, can safely overcome while operating a motor vehicle. Parents need to discuss the issue with the teen drivers in their households and they need to set a good example by not using their cell phones while driving.
Source: USA Today, “CDC: Older teens often text while behind the wheel,” 7 June 2012