Americans Text And Drive More Than Europeans
March 15, 2013

Americans Use Mobile Devices While Driving Far More Than Europeans

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Texting, talking or partaking in another activity on a mobile device while driving is more common in the US than in a number of European countries, says the Centers for Disease Control in a new study. The study was published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report examined two types of self-reported distracted driving behaviors: Cell phone use while driving, and reading or sending text or email messages while driving. The study looked at drivers aged 18 to 64. The CDC compared drivers in that age range in the United States with drivers in seven European countries including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Data gathered from the 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles surveys, which contributed to the study, found that 69 percent of US drivers talked on their cell phones while driving compared to 21 percent of drivers from the United Kingdom. The study also found that 31 percent of drivers in the United States reported that they had read or sent a text message or email while driving compared to 15 percent of drivers in Spain.

"The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive," said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "Driving and dialing or texting don't mix. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cell phone."

When looking specifically at drivers in the U.S., several factors came up. First, there were no significant differences between men and women in terms of cell phone use or reading or sending texts or email messages while driving. Younger drivers, however, are more likely to report talking on the phone. A higher percentage of drivers between the ages of 25 and 44 talk on the phone while driving compared to those in the 55 to 64 age range. And perhaps unsurprisingly, a higher percentage of 18 to 34 year olds reported reading or sending text or email messages while driving compared to the 45 to 64 age group.

"Everyone, of every age and generation, has the ability to make a decision to drive distraction-free," said Linda C. Degutis, Dr. P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "It's especially risky for young, inexperienced drivers — who are already extremely vulnerable to crashes — to be distracted when they are behind the wheel. Anwsering a call or reading a text is never worth a loss of life."

Several states and other countries have instituted laws, communication campaigns and technologies in attempts to curb distracted driving. The CDC says that as of February 2013, 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that restrict at least some teens and new drivers from using cell phones while driving. More efforts and outreach including driver education are needed to help reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

The CDC particularly urges parents to provide an example of safe driving behavior to teens and young adults by staying off the phone while they drive.