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article imageOp-Ed: Study - Teen drivers still texting & drinking behind the wheel

By Jenna Cyprus     Mar 31, 2014 in Technology
A recent study shows that while teen drivers know which behaviors are risky, they don’t quite understand what it means to engage in those behaviors.
While teens certainly have the common sense to understand what you should and shouldn’t do behind the wheel, how well do they apply that knowledge? A recent study shows that while teen drivers know which behaviors are risky, they don’t quite understand what it means to engage in those behaviors. Although teens know they shouldn’t text or drink and drive, many teens still admit to texting at red lights or driving after drinking. Statistics show that this disconnect is part of a larger problem with teen drivers; however, with driver’s education, parents can help their teens make better decisions when driving.
The Study: Teens & Risky Driving Behavior
Conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD, this study included surveys from more than 2,500 U.S. students in the 11th and 12 grades, as well as 1,000 parents of teenagers who drive. It found that when it comes to driving under the influence, teens are aware of what behavior is risky, such as cell phone use and failing to select a designated driver, but they are failing to apply this knowledge in practice. First, let’s take a look at the findings on driving under the influence:
• 86% of teen drivers know that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous.
• Just 1% of teens believe that driving under the influence is acceptable behavior.
• 5% of teens state they sometimes drive while intoxicated.
• 1 out of every 10 teens who report never driving while intoxicated also report that they have driven after having one alcoholic beverage.
• 68% of teens who report driving while intoxicated have driven after consuming more than 3 alcoholic beverages.
These numbers show that while teens know drinking and driving is dangerous, they don’t quite understand what drinking and driving really means. A similar pattern emerges with choosing a designated driver:
• 58% of parents encourage their teen drivers to select a designated driver rather than driving while intoxicated.
• 47% of teens state that they have used a designated driver.
• Unfortunately, 21% of teens think that a designated driver can have “a little” alcohol.
• 4% of teens believe that a designated driver is the person who is the “most” sober rather than someone who is completely sober.
Apparently, teens are also unclear about the true definition of a designated driver. Finally, here are the results on cell phone use and driving:
• 96% of teen drivers believe that cell phone use while driving is a slight distraction.
• 62% of teens believe that cell phone use while driving is a major distraction.
• 86% of teen drivers still use their cell phone to talk or text while driving.
• 47% of teen drivers report never texting while driving, but they still text while stopped at red lights and stop signs.
• 68% of teen drivers report that they either read or send texts while driving.
Overall, this study shows that on one hand, most teens understand that driving while under the influence or using a cell phone is risky, and they know that using a designated driver is important. However, teens are either willfully ignoring that knowledge, or they do not fully understand what specific behaviors should be avoided entirely while behind the wheel.
The Problem With Teen Drivers
The study discussed above is not isolated – statistics show that teen drivers face a number of challenges while on the road. Not only are car crashes the number one cause of death for teens ages 15-19, but 16 year olds also have the highest crash rates amongst drivers of all ages. Furthermore, teen car crashes are linked to risky behaviors. In 2011, 11% of crash fatalities amongst teens were attributed to distracted driving, and 21% of those crashes were due to cell phone use, while 32% of fatal crashes were attributed to alcohol use. These numbers show that teen driving is a major problem, but how can that problem be solved?
Reaching Teens Through Driver’s Education
One way to reach teens and help them understand the consequences of engaging in risky behaviors while driving is through driver’s education. According to the CDC, taking part in a comprehensive graduated driver’s licensing program reduces the risk of being involved in a fatal crash and a crash leading to injury by 38% and 40%, respectively. With better driver’s education programs, parents can guide their teens toward a full understanding of what behaviors are unacceptable when driving.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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