Teen drivers face some of the highest risks when driving on public roads and highways, often because they lack experience behind the wheel. In addition to being novice drivers, teens are also prone to driving distracted.
In fact, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA) show that teens and young adults may be the biggest culprits when it comes to driver distraction:
- 71% of teens and young adults admitted to having written or sent a text message while driving.
- 78% of teens and young people admit to having read a text message behind the wheel.
- 10% of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal car accidents were reportedly distracted at the time. The under-20 age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
- 25% of teen drivers respond to texts once or more each time they drive.
- 20% of teens admit to having had extended text conversations while driving.
Because teens are more likely to use phones and other devices behind the wheel, officials and safety advocates across the nation have explored ways to promote roadway safety and ensure that teen drivers focus on the primary task of driving. Some of these efforts have included national safety campaigns like It Can Wait or smart phone apps that prevent teens from texting while a vehicle is in motion. According to a recent study from the University of Alabama, however, texting bans are the most effective.
Texting While Driving Laws
The study found that texting bans have proven successful at reducing preventable car wrecks. Researchers analyzed 11 years of accident statistics, comparing fatality rates between states with and without texting laws. They also looked at states that ban texting for all drivers and those that had laws targeting only younger and novice drivers, and whether these laws were primary or secondary laws.
- Text messaging bans can reduce teen traffic fatalities by as much as 11 percent.
- Having any texting law was linked to a 2.3 percent drop in overall traffic deaths for all drivers
- Primary law texting bans were linked to a 3% drop in traffic deaths for all ages.
Many states across the nation have created laws that ban text messaging or handheld device use specifically for novice drivers. The state of South Carolina went one step further earlier this year by passing a statewide texting ban for all drivers. South Carolina’s texting ban is also a primary law, meaning officers have the ability to ticket drivers for simply texting. Secondary laws require officers to pull drivers over for another reason before issuing a ticket.