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.
- The survey found that 97 percent of teens know texting while behind the wheel is dangerous, 43 percent admit to sending a text while driving, and 75 percent say the practice is common among their friends.
- Stopping at a red light and texting? Seventy percent thought that was dangerous, but, again, 60 percent said they do it anyway during a red light stop.
- Eighty-nine percent of teens (almost nine in 10) expect a reply to a text or email message within five minutes.
- Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of teens surveyed own a smartphone and 54 percent report owning a traditional cell phone.
- When asked how many messages they send and receive on an average day, nearly half (46 percent) said they send and receive between 21 and 100 text messages a day. An additional 17 percent said they send over 100 text messages daily.
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.