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Are teenagers really more likely to text while driving?

Texting and driving is one of the biggest safety concerns on the modern roads. Every year, thousands of people die in crashes caused by distracted drivers.

While people of all ages have grown increasingly dependent on their mobile phones, many people still associate texting at the wheel with teen drivers. Is there any factual basis to the idea that teenagers are more likely to text while driving, or is this just a cultural stereotype that feeds off of the idea that all teenagers are irresponsible?

Teenagers do seem to self-report distracted driving at higher rates

Behaviors and social attitudes are constantly in flux, so it is worth noting that the most recent comprehensive look at teen attitudes about texting is already a couple of years old. However, in 2018, just under 40% of teen drivers surveyed admitted to texting while driving recently. More than half of older teens ages 18 and 19 reported texting while driving in the last 30 days.

Other studies have found that roughly 20% of teen drivers admit to having multiple-text conversations while at the wheel. This second study found that parents admitted to having multiple-text conversations while driving at a rate of just 10% or half that of the younger drivers.

There could be multiple reasons for this discrepancy. Adults understand the long-term risks they take while driving better than teens do, which can lead to safer choices. They may also feel less social pressure to use their phones. However unreliable self-reported driving safety information may be, there is little question that teens seem to admit texting while driving at higher rates than older adults do.

Distraction does not become safer with age

People do become better drivers when they have more experience at the wheel, and there is no substitute for hands-on practice. However, no amount of skill or experience with driving will ever make it safe for drivers to look at their phones instead of the road or to take their hands off the wheel.

Distracted drivers of any age put themselves and everyone else at risk because they can’t wait until they get home to send a message. Recognizing how risky texting while driving is can be the first step toward minimizing your risk for a serious crash caused by mobile technology.