Researchers surveyed 101,397 teens age 14 and up, from 35 states,
who had driven a vehicle in the past 30 days. All but one of the
states had banned text messaging for drivers under age 21. Still, 38
percent of the teens said they had texted while driving at least
The results make the case for stronger enforcement of laws on mobile
phone use while driving but are also a warning to parents, Dr. Motao
Zhu, the study's senior author, told Reuters Health by phone.
"We see a huge issue... texting while driving is severely
under-enforced so we don't see many tickets for texting drivers,"
said Zhu, who is Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury
Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus,
Rates of texting while driving varied by state, from 26 percent in
Maryland to 64 percent in South Dakota, Zhu's team reports in the
Journal of Adolescent Health.
The practice was more common in states where kids could get
learner's permits at younger ages. The five states where more than
50 percent of teen drivers reported texting while driving - Montana,
Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming - granted learner's
permits at age 15 or younger.
More than one in five students aged 14 or 15 reported driving before
they were eligible for a learner's permit, and one in six of these
drivers had texted while driving without a permit.
"The earlier teens start driving, the earlier they start texting
while driving," Zhu said.
The rate of texting while driving doubled between ages 15 and 16 and
continued to rise through age 17 and beyond, the study authors
found. They note that white teens were more likely to text while
driving than students of all other races. Young drivers who wore
seat belts were less likely to text while driving.
A separate study recently found that adolescents drive dangerously
once their license allows them to hit the road without a grownup in
the car, even if they are cautious while learning to drive.
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"Study after study has shown that texting while driving remains an
extremely common behavior in teens and other age groups despite all
the attention and laws that have been implemented," said Dr. Kit
Delgado, a trauma center emergency physician and an assistant
professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the University
of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
Delgado, who was not involved in the new research, told Reuters
Health by email that interventions are needed beyond the education
drivers get prior to getting their license and the laws banning
Data for the study were drawn from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey
System of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The association between age and texting while driving underscores
the need for sustained attention to it throughout the adolescent
years, the authors said. To help address the problem, they call for
positive parental role modeling, clear communication of rules around
in-vehicle cell-phone use and increased monitoring of newly licensed
New approaches are also needed, the researchers say. For example,
they suggest, "Social marketing techniques aimed at correcting
teens' misperceptions, such as the belief that their friends engage
in distracted driving behaviors more often than they do," could be
useful, as could "providing positive incentives for not engaging in
texting while driving and in-vehicle cellphone blocking
Among the limitations of the study, the authors note, is that the
survey specifically asked about texting and emailing and not about
other ways in which teenagers use phones while driving.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2McudIg Journal of Adolescent Health, online
August 20, 2018.
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