While only a handful of states in the U.S. have an outright ban on texting while driving, it’s widely accepted that the practice is dangerous and can lead to distracted driving. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days who doesn’t at least acknowledge the fact that roads would be safer if people could just put away their cellphones. A recent survey of teenagers found that nearly all of them (97%) admit that the activity is dangerous. And though texting while driving is certainly not an age-specific offense, teen drivers are usually the main focus of anti-distracted driving campaigns.
Here’s the thing: just like plenty of other teenage behaviors, danger does not mean abstinence. Although 97% said texting while driving was bad, 43% admitted to doing it.
Not only that, but 75% said that the practice was “common among their friends.”
The survey, commissioned by AT&T, suggest a few reasons for this these statistics. First, 89% of respondents said that they personally expect a response to their texts within five minutes. In a culture where getting ignored via text is an ultimate diss, peer pressure could make teens feel the need to multitask while driving. Another reason is the lack of proper role models when is comes to the practice. 77% of teens said that although adults in their lives warn them of the dangers, the adults “do it themselves all the time.”
Of course, there’s also the motivation of “I’m a teenager and I want to do this so yeah, I’m going to do it.”
According to the survey, a large percentage of teens even equated the dangers of texting and driving to those of drinking and driving:
“Our survey also evaluated teen opinions of drinking and driving compared to texting while driving,” said AT&T Director of Consumer Safety & Education, Andrea Brands. “While we’re happy to report that 60 percent of them understand texting while driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving, there’s still work to be done to make this behavior just as socially unacceptable.”
AT&T conducted this survey as part of their “It Can Wait” campaign, which is trying to get the message about texting and driving to the masses. On the site, you can find educational materials about the topic as well as take a “pledge” promising not to text and drive.
While knowledge is power, some federal agencies are taking a more forceful and direct approach to the problem. Both the NTSB and the Department of Transportation Secretary have come out in support of nationwide cellphone bans, which would cover everything from talking, texting, and Facebooking while driving.