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Study finds more than a quarter of teens text on each trip they make

The same study finds their parents use mobile devices significantly more. Are prevention efforts focusing on the wrong groups?


A study by Toyota and the University of Michigan Transportation Institute of Houston area teens and their driving habits has concluded that 27% text every time they drive. Like, OMG, that isn’t the shocking part. The part that is unusual is that this rate of teen texting is 3% below the average that other studies have found.

The authors of the study, called the UMTRI/Toyota Teen Driver Distraction Study, say it is the largest scientific study of its kind. It is a national study, but the part released today was focused on Houston area teens. The Houston area teens are keeping up with their peers nationally when it comes to responding to a text while behind the wheel. Fully 24% say they do that. More than a fifth (22%) say that they have prolonged extended conversations using text messaging while driving.

Interestingly, the headlines around these types of studies (and the author just did the same thing!) always focus on the teens bad behavior. However, the study also looked at non-teens in the survey. 83% of parents were found to be using their cell phones while driving, but the teens do that less, at only 67%. The study did not include the comparison rate of texters who are parents vs. teens. However, it is clear that parents are guilty of the same transgressions we typically pin on teens. Perhaps we do this since the teens are not usually driving their own cars, or we see their driving as less important to everyday life. In a prior opinion piece at Torque News we pointed out that it may be more sensible to focus anti-texting and anti- phone use on parents rather than teens. Dr. Tina Sayer, Principal Engineer for Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) and teen safe driving expert, commented on the findings saying “Driver education begins the day a child’s car seat is turned around to face front. The one piece of advice I would give to parents to help them keep newly licensed drivers safe on the road is to always be the driver you want your teen to be.”

Many who hear the results of studies like this one feel that texting and hand-held phone use in general should be outlawed. However, states that have made this move have not seen any reduction in the behavior. Ironically, some states saw usage rates actually rise after bans were put in place. However, a new device now being used in Mass. can stop phones from texting while the car is in motion. Perhaps a solution is on the way.

Photo courtesy of and WXIItv