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More Teens Texting While Driving

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

One third of teens ages 16 and 17 say they have texted while driving a new study shows. That same study also shows that 48 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 say they have been in a car while the driver was texting.

textingdrivingThe study was conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart said she was surprised “to hear (from teens) about how it’s often parents or other adults who are doing the texting or talking and driving, and how for many teens, this is scary or worrisome behavior.”

For its Teens and Distracted Driving study, Pew surveyed 800 teens ages 12 to 17 between June and September. The non-partisan organization also conducted nine focus groups with 74 additional teens in the cities of Ann Arbor, Mich., Denver, Atlanta and New York between June and October, in conjunction with the University of Michigan.

“Much of the public discussion around these behaviors has focused on teens as young, inexperienced drivers, but some of the adults in these young peoples’ lives are clearly not setting the best example either,” said Mary Madden, a Pew senior research specialist who also worked on the survey.

“Teens spoke not only of adults texting at the wheel, but also fumbling with GPS devices and being distracted because they’re talking on the phone constantly,” she said. “And the reactions from the teens we spoke with ranged from being really scared by these behaviors to feeling as though it wasn’t a big deal.”

Among other findings from the Pew survey:

  • 52 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who have cell phones say they have talked on their phones while driving.
  • 34 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who text say they have done so while driving.
  • 48 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
  • 40 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver “used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.”
  • 75 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have a cell phone, and 66 percent of them send or receive text messages.

Boys and girls are “equally likely to report texting behind the wheel,” Pew said, and while a third say they do so, “texting at the wheel is less common than having a conversation on the phone while driving.” Pew did not further ask whether that driving and talking on the phone was being done hands-free.

The teens in the focus groups had various reasons for texting and driving at the same time, Pew said, including “the need to report their whereabouts to friends and parents, getting directions and flirting with significant others.”

Some teens “felt as though they could safely manage a quick exchange of texts while the car was stopped. One high-school-aged boy shared that he would text ‘only at a stop sign or light, but if it’s a call, they have to wait or I’ll hand it to my brother or whoever is next to me.’ “

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