A study of nearly 250 drivers aged 18 to 73 found that the teenagers were driving while using cell phones, text-messaging devices, digital music players, and illuminated, interactive dashboard maps for an alarming amount of the time they were on the road.
Conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), the study showed that teens’ gadget-based impaired driving is of significant concern.
Thomas Dingus, the director of the VTTI, noted that the 2 million miles’ worth of video footage of the study’s subjects reveals “an impairment epidemic” among teen drivers and that although teenagers tend to consider themselves invincible and as proficient multitaskers, they are actually particularly vulnerable to distractions while driving.
“What we’ve seen and continue to see is that teen drivers engage in a lot of different types of tasks while driving…the problem is they’re not very good at judging risk. They tend to use (the devices) in driving situations when they shouldn’t,” Dingus said.
Although drivers of all ages were observed engaging in poor or outright dangerous cell phone or text use while driving, the teens did it significantly more often and were making particularly poor driving decisions while doing so.
Survey of Teens Shows They Realize the Danger
In a related matter, a national survey sponsored by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) asked more than 900 teenage drivers about their driving habits. The teens reported that they found the following activities “extremely” or “very” distracting:
- instant or text messaging while driving – 37%
- having several friends in the car – 19%
- talking on a cell phone – 14%
- eating or drinking – 7%
- having a friend in the car – 5%
States Are Taking Action
Several states have implemented or are about to implement laws to limit such device usage among teen drivers. California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee all have or will have limitations on cell phones or other wireless communication devices use by teen drivers or drivers with learners’ permits.
Across the United States, the tide appears to be turning against cell phone use by drivers of all ages. Most other developed countries around the world already ban cell phone use by drivers, and it is thought by many safety agencies that the U.S. will eventually reach the same point.