Young People Rarely Object to Drivers Texting, Study Says

Findings from the first nationally representative telephone survey on driver distraction show that younger drivers ages 18 to 20 years old report the highest level of phone involvement in crash or near-crash incidences.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently released survey analysis that reveals young people are the least likely passengers to say something to their driver if he or she were texting or talking on a cellphone. At the same time, LaHood also launched a new contest for students to design a social networking icon that will be used in DOT’s distracted driving campaign and encourage young drivers to speak up when riding with a distracted driver.

“Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and these new findings show that our youngest drivers are particularly at risk,” LaHood said. “We’re encouraging young people across America to commit to distraction-free driving, spread the word to their family and friends, and speak up if the driver in their car is distracted.”

Findings from the first nationally representative telephone survey on driver distraction conducted by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that younger drivers ages 18 to 20 years old report the highest level of phone involvement in crash or near-crash incidences. These young drivers are nearly three times as likely to report having been reading or sending a text or email when such an incident occurred as compared to drivers age 25 and higher. In addition, drivers younger than 25 are two to three times more likely to drive while sending or reading a text message or email. Reports of texting while driving drop sharply as age increases.

The NHTSA survey polled more than 6,000 drivers to assess the public’s attitudes, knowledge, and self-reported behavior related to cellphones. When asked as passengers how they would feel about different situations, almost all respondents (about 90 percent overall) reported that they considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or emails as very unsafe. However, it also found that younger passengers were less likely than older passengers to speak up. About one-third of young passengers 18 to 20 and 21 to 24 would say something to a driver who was talking on a handheld phone, whereas about half of drivers over age 65 would speak up.

In order to raise awareness among young drivers about the dangers of texting and cellphone use behind the wheel, DOT’s new Distracted Driving Design Challenge invites teens to create an original icon with an anti-distracted-driving message that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and, other social networking sites. The contest, which will accept submissions from April 16 through July 31, is open to students between the ages of 13 and 18 in the United States. The winning design will be selected by LaHood and a panel of DOT experts and incorporated into DOT’s distracted driving campaign.

The full survey analysis, “Young Drivers Report the Highest Level of Phone Involvement in Crash or Near-crash Incidences,” is available at NHTSA.gov.

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