A team of researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Ohio State University has conducted a study on teens and texting habits while driving.
The study found that two in five teen drivers over the age of 14 texted at least once in the month prior to the study. There were a few patterns that popped up as the researchers were going through the surveys. White teens were more likely to have texted while driving than any other ethnicity. Fifty percent of the texters were from five states where the legal age for obtaining a driver’s permit is 15. Also, the states who have more student drivers were more likely to have teens who text while driving.
The survey also showed that texting while driving is linked with other risky driving behaviors. Teens who don’t regularly wear their seatbelts were 21 percent more likely to text and drive and teens who drink and drive are twice as likely to text while driving. It seems like texting while driving could be the gateway to more dangerous behaviors and habits down the line.
"The increase in texting while driving at the age when teens can legally begin unsupervised driving was not surprising," said Motao Zhu, MD, MS, Ph.D., the study's lead author and Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Graduated driver licensing laws could have an impact on texting while driving behavior: The earlier teens start driving, the earlier they start texting while driving."
"Risky driving behavior is known to be much less common with an adult in the car," said Ruth Shults, M.P.H, Ph.D., formerly senior epidemiologist with the CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. "The association between age and texting while driving highlights the need for parents to pay attention to their child's texting while driving throughout the teen years - not just when their children are learning to drive."
This study didn't cover all phone-related habits while driving. The survey specifically focused on texting and emailing while driving and didn’t cover everything that can be done on a phone. Further studies could be conducted on other habits, like checking social media or making phone or video calls.
After gathering the data from the surveys, the research team came up with some tips to help parents control their teen’s texting and driving habits:
· Be a role model for your child. If your teen sees you texting and driving, they are likely to think that it is okay to be on their phone while driving.
· Along with the above tip, make texting while driving rules clear and stick to them for not only your child but also yourself.
· Be careful when you text or call. Wait until you know your teen has arrived at their destination before attempting to contact them. Teens are more likely to respond to a message from people close to them, so by holding off until they are out of the car, they are more likely to avoid texting and driving.
· Monitor your new driver. The first few years of driving are the most dangerous. Closely monitoring your child’s habits by continuing to ride with them after they obtain their license makes them are more likely to develop safe driving habits.
· Most phones today have many advanced technological features. Take advantage of these. With the last major iOS update, Apple added driving mode to their phones, which disables all communication while the car is in motion. Make sure this feature is enabled on your child’s phone to further guarantee that communication will be limited when driving.
The study on teen driving and texting was published in Journal of Adolescent Health.