Most of this report, published by the National Center for Children in Poverty, has to do with adolescents’ risk-taking behavior, but one finding in particular that might interest readers of this blog is that almost 50 percent of adolescents admit to text messaging while driving, which studies have found increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. That’s at least as risky, if not more, than driving drunk.
This study, by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, released in July found that text messaging was far more distracting than dialing a number, talking on a cellphone, or reaching for an object while driving. In fact, the study suggested that texting be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers.
Another interesting finding in that study was that cellphone calls received through a headset are not significantly safer than cellphone calls without a headset. This is the case even though in many places where talking on cellphones while driving is banned, talking on cellphones through headsets while driving is allowed. The primary risk in using a cellphone while driving is dialing and answering calls, which the headset does not make any easier, says the study.
I think it’s safe to say that any activity that takes your eyes off the road while driving for any period of time increases the risk of a crash, and if text messaging impairs driving as much as drinking, it would be wise for all of us to start educating teens, as well as adult drivers, about those risks.
And if those statistics don’t scare you, this public service announcement sure will. I should warn you before you play it, though, that it’s fairly graphic. View at your own risk.
Are your driver’s ed programs tackling this problem?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.