For immediate release: September 24, 2009
For more information: Bernie Fette, 979-845-2623 (office) or 979-777-7532 (cell)
Texas teen drivers are more aware of the danger posed by cell phones than they were a year ago, and they are less likely to use a phone while driving. And overall, urban teens tend to be better at avoiding distractions behind the wheel than their rural counterparts, just as they were a year ago.
The changes are reflected in the nation’s largest review to date of risk awareness and driving behavior among teens, conducted by the Teens in the Driver Seat Center of the Texas Transportation Institute. Researchers collected responses from more than 18,000 high school students over a two-year period. The review produced several major findings. Among them:
- The percentage of those teens who recognized the danger of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving rose from 70 percent to 84 percent for urban teen drivers, and from 64 percent to 93 percent for rural teens.
- The percentage of teens who reported talking on a cell phone while driving dropped from 52 percent to 46 percent for urban teen drivers, and from 66 percent to 52 percent for rural teens.
- The percentage of teens who say they text behind the wheel dropped from 47 percent to 42 percent for urban teen drivers, and from 58 percent to 48 percent for rural teens.
- While rural teens were more prone to dangerous distractions behind the wheel than urban teens, the two groups reported that they received traffic tickets at about the same rate.
Researchers announced the findings this week to add new insight to the discussion planned in Washington, D.C. next week, when transportation leaders, lawmakers and safety experts gather for the first-ever National Summit on Distracted Driving.
“The most productive discussions on policy result from thorough understanding of an issue,” said Russell Henk, a Senior Research Engineer for TTI. “We believe that what we’ve learned directly from teens in Texas can add a lot to that understanding and lead to safer driving conditions for all of us.”
Researchers also examined awareness and behavior related to the danger associated with teen passengers, as studies have shown that the distraction created by the presence of those passengers increases the likelihood of a crash significantly. Although urban teen drivers are more likely to expose themselves to the passenger risk, both groups showed improvement from last year to this year. The percentage dropped from 65 to 54 percent for rural teen drivers, and from 74 to 57 percent for urban teens.
Car crashes kill more young people nationwide each year than any other cause. Distractions constitute the third-most-common factor leading to fatal and injury crashes among teens, according to studies by TTI’s Teens in the Driver Seat Center. Nighttime driving and speeding are number one and two on the list.