Teen Texting and Driving: False Sense Of Security Behind the Wheel

A recent Harris Interactive/State Farm poll indicated a troubling trend towards texting while driving in teenagers.

According to a survey of 655 teens, roughly 49 percent admitted to sending text messages while driving after having earned their license. In contrast, only 6 percent of teens with permits admitted to the same behavior.

The gap indicates that younger drivers attain a false sense of security after obtaining a license and have a tendency to engage in more dangerous driving behaviors as a result.

On a more positive note, the poll showed that 93 percent of teens admitted to wearing their seatbelt at all times, while 76 percent indicated that they drove with no more than one peer passenger in their car.

Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm, believes the findings show that there is “still room for improvement when it comes to interacting with electronic devices while driving,” adding that “teens should be aiming for zero percent usage.”

However, he was encouraged by the fact more teens were wearing seat belts and not taking on too many passengers. He was also optimistic by the result showing teen drivers felt a personal sense of responsibility for themselves (98 percent) and their passengers (99 percent).

Texting While Driving Awareness Efforts

State Farm has embraced the effort to bring awareness to the texting while driving problem with its own teen safety program, Celebrate My Drive. Other efforts to spread the word include one from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and two other popular campaigns at ItCanWait.com and Distraction.gov.

So with all the increased awareness, why do people still do it?

According to Scott Goldman, co-founder and CEO of tech company TextPower, Inc., “Changing behavior is a tough thing.”

“Texting is as normal to people now as answering a phone call, but obviously much more dangerous,” Goldman said. “You don’t have to look at a phone very long to answer a call. Until they are convinced that this ‘normal’ behavior is unacceptable either socially or legally, it’s unlikely to change.”

Goldman continued: “I’m in the text messaging business and have sworn off texting while driving in respect for my family and friends, not to mention other drivers, cyclists, runners and pedestrians. If everyone’s closest friends and loved ones asked them to take the pledge not to text and drive it might have some effect. It has worked with alcoholism through interventions and even eating habits. It could work with texting, too, but you need to speak up.”

In the future, you can also expect insurance companies to take a more active approach in helping clients to cut off the texts. Esurance and anti-texting tech company Cellcontrol are currently working on an application for clients that would help parents discourage their kids from texting.

The app will be capable of blocking mobile phone calls, texts, emails, Internet, and other smartphone applications while the car is in motion.

However, all programs we’ve seen rely on a human component to help set them in motion. As long as that exists, it would be susceptible to override. While tech apps could help reduce the problem of texting while driving, it ultimately won’t go away until the culture of acceptance toward it changes.

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