redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Despite numerous state laws prohibiting texting while operating motor vehicles and countless advertising campaigns warning of the dangers of distracted driving, nearly half of all teenagers admit that they still send and receive messages while behind the wheel.
According to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting on Saturday, approximately 43 percent of the driving-age high-school students that responded to a 2011 survey said that they had driven while texting at least once during the previous 30 days.
“Texting while driving has become, in the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a ℠national epidemic,´” principal investigator Alexandra Bailin, a research assistant at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, said in a statement.
“Although teens may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behavior, reducing the prevalence of texting while driving is an obvious and important way to ensure the health and safety of teen drivers, their passengers and the surrounding public,” she added.
According to the researchers, the primary cause of death among teenagers is motor vehicle accidents, and using a phone while behind the wheel of a car or truck significantly increases the risk that drivers in this age group will become involved in an accident. In fact, they report that the risk of a texting driver being involved in a wreck is 23 times the normal accident rate.
In order to discover how common texting while driving was amongst teenage drivers, Bailin´s team looked at data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention´s (CDC) 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The CDC conducts the survey every two years to track six types of risky behaviors that contribute to the primary causes of death, disability, and social problems among young Americans.
In 2011, 7,833 high school students completed the study, which for the first time asked participants whether or not they had texted or sent e-mails while driving a motor vehicle over the past 30 days. They were also attempting to determine whether or not other high-risk behaviors were linked with distracted driving, and whether or not state laws prohibiting texting while driving were effective among teenagers.
“Survey results showed that males were more likely to text while driving than females (46 percent vs. 40 percent), and the prevalence of texting increased with age (52 percent of those over 18 years; 46 percent of 17-year-olds; 33 percent of 16-year-olds; and 26 percent of 15-year-olds),” the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of the organizations that co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting, explained.
“Furthermore, teens who reported texting while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol, having unprotected sex and using an indoor tanning device,” they added. “The researchers also found that state laws banning texting while driving had little effect: 39 percent of teens reported texting in states where it is illegal vs. 44 percent of teens in states that have no restrictions.”
Bailin said that she and her colleagues hope that they can identify these types of risky behaviors in order to find new ways to keep high-school students from texting while driving.
“Although texting while driving was slightly less common in states that prohibit it, the reality is that millions of teens text while driving,” said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, the head Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
“Regrettably, our analysis suggests that state laws do not significantly reduce teen texting while driving,” he added. “Technological solutions will likely need to be developed to significantly reduce the frequency of texting while driving“¦ phones will have to get smarter if they are to protect teens (and others) from doing dumb things.”