Young people acknowledge that it's dangerous to use a cell phone behind the wheel, yet they knowingly engage in distracting behavior, according to a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
The nationally representative survey asked young drivers between 16-21 years old about the driving behaviors of their peers, parents, and themselves. In the past 30 days, nearly half of the respondents had spoken on a handheld cell phone and about 30 percent had texted while behind the wheel.
When asked about what our respondents saw their friends doing, the numbers were even more startling. Eighty-four percent witnessed friends talking on handheld phones and over 70 percent saw them texting. When asked about what their parents do while driving, almost 50 percent report seeing them talk on a handheld phone and 26 percent saw them texting.
When it comes to what young people think is dangerous while driving, 63 percent said speaking on a handheld cell phone was very or somewhat dangerous. By a much greater margin, 97 percent consider texting, reading, and responding to e-mails to be very or somewhat dangerous when driving, and 98 percent feel the same for using apps or the Internet.
However, the good news is there is some action being taken. Nearly half say they have asked someone to stop using a phone because they feared for their safety, and 74 percent have reduced or stopped behaviors due to concern about distracted driving.
Young people are especially vulnerable to distracted driving dangers. Consider that car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens, combined with their inexperience behind the wheel and love for mobile technology, and it makes for a dangerous combination. In 2010, 11 percent of teens who died in crashes were distracted.
For more results from our survey, read our complete report "Distracted driving puts young drivers at risk".
See our special section on distracted driving for safety tips and more.