Teen drivers text more than parents think: study

Teen drivers do a lot more texting behind the wheel than their parents think they do, according to a new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Michael Conroy/AP/File
A billboard that encourages people not to text while they drive is shown in the northside of Indianapolis in this September 2009 file photo. A new study finds that 26 percent of teen drivers surveyed said they read or sent a text message from a smartphone at least once every time they drive.

A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), sponsored by Toyota’s Collaborative SafetyResearch Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan shows that teen drivers do a lot more texting behind the wheel than their parents think they do.

The study found that 26 percent of teen drivers surveyed said they read or sent a text message from a smartphone at least one time every time they drive. But only one percent of the parents polled believed their teen engages in this risky driving behavior.

The bad news gets even worse with respect to texting and driving. Twenty percent, or one in five teens, admitted to multi-message text conversations while behind the wheel.

Other survey findings

  • 69 percent of teens – more than two-thirds – drive with two to three teen passengers in the car and no adults, behavior proven to double the driver’s risk of being killed in a crash.
  • 44 percent of teens drive with three or more teen passengers and no adults in the car, quadrupling the driver’s risk of being killed.
  • 50 percent of teen drivers say they deal with passengers while driving, and 30 percent say they do so at least once every trip.
  • More than half of teens search for music on a portable music device while driving, while only 12 percent of parents do this.
  • One in 10 teens updates or checks social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter while behind the wheel. 

Drive like you want your teen to drive

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the survey of more than 2,600 newly-licensed drivers age 16 to 18 and nearly 3,000 parents of drives in this group found that parents have a significant influence in how their teens drive.

Specifically, parents are urged to teach model positive driving behavior – almost from the time the child seat is turned from rear-facing to forward-facing. As Tina Sayer, CSRC principal engineer and teen driving safety expert said in a release, “Seat belts and good defensive driving skills are critical.”

Her one piece of advice to parents of newly-licensed drivers to help them remain safe on the road: “Be the driver you want your teen to be.”

For more information on the study, follow this link.

Want to help your teen stop texting and driving? Check out our 10 tips.

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