As Columbia personal injury lawyers, we know that texting and driving poses a serious threat to roadway safety - and that young drivers are especially prone to this form of distraction. A 2011 study conducted by the Ad Council found that 77% of teen drivers felt "very or somewhat confident that they could safely text while driving." What's more, the Centers for Disease Control's most recent National Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed alarming data about teens' texting and driving habits. The results of the nationwide survey, which assesses health-risk behaviors among young people, were a mixed bag of good news and bad news. While teen drivers have shown "significant process" in areas like seat belt usage and drunk driving, distraction (particularly texting and emailing) remains a prominent risk factor.
"We are encouraged that more of today's high school students are choosing healthier, safer behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, and are avoiding behaviors that we know can cause them harm, such as binge drinking or riding with impaired drivers," said Howell Wechsler, director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, in a news release. "However, these findings also show that despite improvements, there is a continued need for government agencies, community organizations, schools, parents, and other community members to work together to address the range of risk behaviors prevalent among our youth."
Significant findings of the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
• Over the last 20 years, the number of teen drivers who never or rarely wear seat belts has dropped dramatically (from 26% in 1991 to 8% in 2011).
• Within the same time period, the number of teens who admitted to riding in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver also declined (from 40 to 24).
• Only 8% of teen drivers said they had driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol within the last 30 days, compared to 17% in 1997.
• However, about 1 out of 3 teens (32.8%) said they had sent at least one text message or email while driving within the previous 30 days.
U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called texting and driving "an epidemic" when he released the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's official "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving." The Blueprint outlines a practical, comprehensive strategy to reduce distracted driving accidents throughout the country. "We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a news conference.
NHTSA distracted driving facts & statistics:
• In 2010, at least 3,092 people died in car crashes involving driver distraction, meaning distraction played a role in about one out of 10 fatal accidents.
• In a NHTSA telephone survey conducted earlier this year, respondents "acknowledged few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text," with over 75% of drivers "[reporting] that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips.
• Ironically, despite this willingness, nearly all respondents - approximately 90% - said they "considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or emails [to be] very unsafe."