Texting Teens Likely To Take Other Risks Behind the Wheel: Study

The findings of new research suggests a link between teens who text while driving, and an increase in taking other dangerous risks behind the wheel..

Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published a report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) last month, indicating texting is often just the tip of the iceberg for teen drivers, and provides a potential warning sign of other risky behavior by teen drivers.

The study included 384 drivers ranging from ages 18 to 24 from across the United States. Subjects completed an online survey which identified their risky driving practices, history of crashes, and impulse-related personality traits.

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Out of the 384 drivers surveyed, 44% stated they had been in at least one crash and 73% reported they have used their phones while driving. Risky driving was associated with a form of impulsivity known as acting-without-thinking, and sensation seeking was also associated with crashes, but independently of risky driving practices and impulsivity.

The drivers who reported cell phone use while driving mentioned they were more likely to commit other risky driving behaviors and actions such as speeding, aggressive passing, and running red lights. However, one positive aspect of the survey indicated seat belt use was still strong, with just under 4% of those surveyed saying they rarely or never used seat belts as passengers, and only 1.8% saying they rarely or never used seat belts as drivers.

In North America, studies have shown cell phone use while driving is associated with an increased crash and near-crash risk. In 2018, distracted driver crashes accounted for 8% of fatal auto accidents on U.S. roads, killing 2,841 people. Young adults are over-represented in phone-related fatal crashes, the researchers indicate.

Bans on cell phone use while driving are in place in 38 states

The researchers concluded further action must take place to prevent risky teen driving behaviors. Researchers suggest treating cell phone use similarly to driving while drunk to help send a message of how dangerous cell phone use can be while driving.

“These findings support prior research to suggest that cell phone use while driving is part of a pattern of risky driving associated with crashes that is also associated in part with differences in acting-without-thinking impulsivity. Furthermore, current point-of-care brief interventions (e.g., for alcohol-impaired driving) could consider broadening their scope from addressing one risky behavior,” the researchers determined. “When these drivers are identified as engaging in any one of these dangerous practices, there is an opportunity to deliver interventions that also address related risk behaviors when being treated for injuries after a crash or when pulled over following a citation for dangerous behavior.”


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