Irony: 71 Percent of Teens Consider Driving and Texting Dangerous, yet 66 Percent Still Do It

Approximately seven in 10 of students at Aliso Niguel High School text and drive, double the national percentage for "young drivers."

There seems to be an epidemic concerning phones and driving—at least according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports, which released new survey results that capture the glaringly obvious fact: Plenty, if not a dangerous number, of young adults use their phones while driving.

As a teenager myself, I thought the numbers made some sense: Nationally, 63 percent of drivers under 30 (yes, 30 and under apparently is the definition for “young” drivers) used their phones while driving in the past 30 days, with 30 percent texting, according to Consumer Reports

Still, having ridden in my share of semi-legal carpools and watching teenage driving, I swore the numbers should have been much higher had it been teenagers.

After surveying a stratified random sample of 125 Aliso Niguel students during tutorial, I discovered that I was not delusional. 

While 73.6  percent of Aliso Niguel students admit to having used their phones in the past month, a little more than 10 percent of the national average, 65.6 percent of students also proudly stated to have texted while driving during the past month—double that of the national proportion.

That easily means at least every seven in 10 student drivers you meet on the road is likely to be distracted at one time or another.

“I think I’ll start walking,” senior Rustin Manafian joked after learning about the statistics.  “It kind of sucks, though—that so many people out there [text] and drive.”

Teen Perception of Dangers

The Aliso Niguel survey found that 31.2 percent of students believed that using a phone while driving was “very dangerous,” (on a scale of one to five, one being “very safe” and five being “very dangerous”), eerily matching the 30 percent of young drivers nationally who believed using a phone while driving was very dangerous (Consumer Reports).  While it seems the Department of Transportation found the figure disappointing, I discovered that—at least around Laguna Niguel—the numbers are not as bad as they seem. Most students, 73 percent, consider using a phone while driving “dangerous” or “very dangerous,” while 65 percent admit that they cannot handle such multitasking. 

“I think people know they can’t handle it, but they do it anyways,” senior Ayesha Misra said.  “We’re teenagers, after all.”

Of course, it seems to make us teenagers appear either stupid or self-deceptive, since seven in 10 students still insist on driving and using their phones despite knowing the dangers of doing so.

I have to admit that I do—on occasion—read a text or answer the phone while driving.  And I do not just answer at red lights, mind you. Yes, I understand the dangers and whatnot of multitasking while driving, but as a member of a generation that grew up with this technology, answering the phone seems no worse than changing the radio, putting on makeup or reading a map while driving. 

So will a new generation of Americans eventually change this habit of multitasking and driving? With current trends, I doubt it. 

Erik Wood March 18, 2011 at 04:17 PM
I think we live in a culture where business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Just put the phone away" - but we can see its just not happening. I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and I think we need to do more than legislate. I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws. Erik Wood, owner OTTER LLC OTTER app


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