Despite state laws prohibiting texting while driving, 30% of teens still text behind the wheel, according to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego on Saturday.
The researchers used two surveys to determine the effect of texting and driving legislation on teen driving behavior. Fourteen states passed new laws banning texting and driving between 2011, when the first survey was conducted, and 2013, when a second was distributed. In that time, the rate of teens saying they had texted while driving in the 30 days prior to taking the survey dropped from 43% to 30%.
While the rate of teen texting and driving has decreased, the fact that almost a third of teens are still using their phone behind the wheel is worrying researchers and other experts.
Distracted driving is extremely dangerous for all drivers, and becomes more so when combined with a teen driver’s lack of experience on the road. Forbes columnist Dr. Robert Glatter, who covers breaking news in medicine and public health, writes that texting while driving has been found to increase the risk of having a crash up to 20 times – “which makes it more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.” Since teenagers, as Glatter says, are already at an increased risk for having an auto accident while they are in the driver’s seat, the added risk of texting while driving becomes that much more troubling.
In addition to the physical dangers of distracted driving, texting and driving also comes with the threat of a ticket and fine. Using handheld cell phones while driving – not only to text, but also to make phone calls – is illegal for both teen and adult drivers in the state of Delaware. Novice drivers (drivers with a learner’s permit or intermediate license holders), are prohibited from all cell phone use, including hands-free use. Because illegal cell phone use is a “primary law” in Delaware, an officer can pull a driver over for texting or using a cell phone even if they are not violating any other laws.
Of course, the most disturbing consequences of texting and driving far exceed a $50 driving fine. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2013. Another 424,000 people were injured in the same year.
Unfortunately, our attorneys have seen what can happen when someone texts when they are behind the wheel. Please help keep your children and others safe by reminding your teens of the dangers of texting while driving. The Federal Communications Commission advises parents and guardians to emphasize the impact distracted driving can have on the lives of other people on the road:
“Before new drivers get their licenses, discuss the fact that taking their eyes off the road – even for a few seconds – could cost someone injury or even death.”
The bottom line for Glatter: “it can wait!”