Teens Own Up to Texting While Driving

June 19th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

A new survey reveals a disturbing trend.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

If you don’t feel you can properly convey to your teen all the reasons that they shouldn’t text and drive, consider telling them this: They could go to jail.

Last week, a Massachusetts teenager has been sentenced to a year in jail for a fatal traffic accident that happened while he was driving. A BusinessWeek article describes the scenario: “Prosecutors say the then-17-year-old high school student sent some 193 text messages the day of the crash, including some just a minute or so before impact and dozens more after it.” The crash he caused took the life of a 55-year-old man and seriously injured the man’s girlfriend. Police say the young man’s car crossed the center line on a Haverhill, Mass., street and crashed head-on into the other vehicle. The deceased, a father of three, died 18 days later of the injuries he sustained. The young man was convicted under a 2010 law that created the criminal charge of texting while driving negligently and causing injury.

With 39 states having already banned texting while driving for all age groups, and another five states outlawing it for novice teen drivers, authorities are increasingly cracking down. Aside from the young convicted driver in Mass., a teen in Missouri has also been sentenced to jail for a fatal accident.

You would think that all the publicity surrounding the dangers of distracted teen driving (specifically texting while driving) would compel young drivers to put down the phones by now. Not so, according to a newly released government survey of high school seniors.

The survey, conducted last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, questioned more than 15,000 public and private high school students across the country on risky behavior. The results: about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors said they had. According to separate research by the Pew Research Center, a typical teen sends and receives about 100 text messages a day; it’s the most common way teens communicate with their peers these days.

“Don’t text and drive” is a common refrain these days, but how do you start the conversation with your teen? If simply telling them it’s dangerous isn’t enough, will telling them they could go to jail make them think twice?

Liberty Mutual has long been a leader in promoting awareness of the dangers of distracted driving among teens, from partnerships with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to publishing a variety of articles and studies on teen driving. Learn more at Liberty Mutual’s Teen Driving page.