June 8, 2012
Over Half Of High School Seniors Admit To Texting While Driving
The deadly trend of texting while driving is continuing to be problematic, as over half of high school seniors admitted to the habit in a new survey.
A government survey found that about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month.
"We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at news conference on Thursday.
At the conference, LaHood announced pilot projects in Delaware and California to discourage distracted driving, and called texting and cellphone use behind the wheel a "national epidemic."
“Distracted driving is an epidemic. While we´ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured — and we can put an end to it," he said in a statement.
Distracted-driving deaths are most common in teens, and are the culprit behind about 16 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths.
There have been 39 states that have banned texting from all age groups so far, and an additional five states outlaw it for teen drivers.
A new plan laid out by LaHood and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) encourages the remaining 11 states to enact and enforce laws against texting while driving.
Teens in Missouri and Massachusetts have been sentenced to jail over the last two weeks for fatal accidents that involved texting while driving.
The USDOT plan challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distracted drivers through devices that could be built into vehicles.
Data also shows that the older someone is, the less likely they are to text and drive. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers over the age of 25 are two to three times less likely to send text messages or emails while driving.
“We know from the success of national efforts like ℠Click It or Ticket´ that combining good laws with effective enforcement and a strong public education campaign can — and does — change unsafe driving behavior,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a press release. “Now, along with two great state partners, we´re using this proven formula to help tackle distracted driving.”
According to USDOT, at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2010, which accounts for about one in every ten fatalities on the roadways.
Over three-quarters of the respondents of the new study said they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips while driving. The respondents acknowledged few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text, but reported feeling unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting.
About 90 percent of all the respondents in the survey admitted that they considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or emails while driving as very unsafe.