One in three teens texts while driving, according to research

We have all heard how dangerous it is. We all know we shouldn’t do it. Many people do it anyway, and teenagers more than most. Texting while driving causes accidents and kills people every day. The Journal of Adolescent Health has released new research finding that nearly 40 percent of all teens had texted or emailed within a 30-day span.


The study on risky behavior

The study focused on several types of risky behavior among high school students across 35 states, including Tennessee. Some states showed much higher rates of texting while driving than others. South Dakota topped the list at 65 percent, while Maryland was the lowest at 26 percent. Tennessee fell somewhere in the middle at 36 percent.

The study found some similarities among the states at the top of the list. They tend to be less populated with a higher percentage of teens 14 and older driving. The researchers suggested that more rural space with fewer cars, and teens who start driving at a younger age and at longer distances, all increase the likelihood that a teen will text while driving.

Among the teens themselves, the study found that those who do text and drive also engage in other risky behavior, such as not always wearing a seatbelt and drinking and driving. In addition, the researches point out that they did not ask about other types of distracted driving, like taking photos, searching through music or even making phone calls while driving. The total numbers of distracted drivers could be much higher.

The law in Tennessee

In Tennessee, texting while driving is illegal, and the law does not allow teens with a learner’s permit or an intermediate license to have their cellphones while driving. In addition, drivers cannot have a hand-held device in a school zone. These are primary traffic offenses, which means the police can pull you over if they see you doing it.

Talking to teens

Parents of teen drivers at home have probably already had the discussion at least once, but it bears repeating. The American Academy of Family Physicians had several suggestions for approaching the problem:

  • Set a good example. Parents can tell their teen not to do it, but if they text and drive in front of their teen, they can be sure the teen will still do it.
  • Set clear rules. Teens know how to push boundaries, so parents need to be very clear about expectations. Some parents insist the cell phone goes in the trunk or glove compartment while the teen drives, only to be taken out when they reach their destination.
  • Have back-up. Parents can ask their child’s doctor to talk about all risky behaviors with their child. Sometimes they need to hear it from someone other than a parent or teacher.
  • Monitoring new drivers. Parents should keep a close eye on their new driver, helping instill healthy and safe driving habits from the very beginning. There are even apps parents can download to block texting and calls while driving, though savvy teens can get around these.

We all know the dangers of texting and driving. Yet our teens are still doing it. Adults need to set a good example for the teens in their lives and keep encouraging them to be safe drivers.

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