By now, most teens know that texting and handheld cellphone use while driving is dangerous. Yet they continue to do so; a Consumer Reports survey reported just last week that eight in 10 young drivers admit to texting and driving.
Laws are getting tougher on this type of distracted-driving behavior. Thirty-eight states, Washington, D.C. and Guam now have laws banning all texting by drivers, and 31 states and D.C. ban cell phone use by novice drivers. But how do we get teens to keep both hands on the wheel?AT&T, a major wireless carrier, commissioned a new study of teen drivers as part of its “It Can Wait” campaign. The results are not surprising, but nonetheless deeply disturbing. There’s a profound disconnect between what teens consider as “dangerous” or “very dangerous” behavior and what they actually do.
See the complete AT&T Teen Driver Survey results here (PDF).
Making it real with the use of a driving simulator
Trying to change teen behavior, once entrenched, may seem like a difficult challenge. But it is one that AT&T as well as safety advocacy organizations are tackling. Case in point is the wireless carrier’s 30-market road tour to U.S. high schools of the texting-while-driving simulator, offered by The Peers Foundation.
The simulator is a computerized car that permits users to virtually text and drive – the only instance in which such behavior can be conducted safely. Check out the video below to see how the simulator works and how teens are reacting to the experience.
The tour, which runs from May 8 through June 2, is making stops in Portland and Eugene, Oregon; six cities in California (Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco); Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Omaha, Nebraska; Little Rock, Arkansas; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Brentwood and Knoxville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and five cities in Florida (Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Wellington).
Bottom line: Teens come away from the simulator with a better appreciation of the risks of texting and driving. And, as 89 percent of teens in the AT&T survey agreed, a phone app that prevents texting and driving would help them stop this form of distracted driving.
A number of such phone apps are available, including the AT&T Drive Mode, T-Mobile DriveSmart, and Sprint Drive First.