WASHINGTON, DC – Teens can get
hundreds of text messages a day, but one message they aren’t getting is that
they shouldn’t text and drive.
Nearly 43 percent of high school students of driving age who
were surveyed in 2011 reported texting while driving at least once in the past
30 days, according
to a study to be presented Saturday, May 4, at the Pediatric Academic Societies
(PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.
while driving has become, in the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,
a ‘national epidemic,’” said principal investigator
Alexandra Bailin, a research assistant at Cohen Children’s Medical
Center of New York.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among
teenagers, and using a phone while driving significantly increases the risk of
accidents in this age group. The specific act of texting while driving has been
found to raise the risk of a crash by 23 times, leading many to conclude that texting
while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
teens may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behavior,
reducing the prevalence of texting while driving is an obvious and important
way to ensure the health and safety of teen drivers, their passengers and the
surrounding public,” Bailin said.
To determine the prevalence of texting while driving among
youths, Bailin and her colleagues analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk
Behavior Survey of 7,833 high school students who were old enough to get a
driver’s license in their state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the
national survey every two years to monitor six types of health-risk behaviors
that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among
U.S. youths. For the first time, the 2011 survey included a question about
texting while driving: “During the past 30 days, on how many days did you text
or e-mail while driving a car or other vehicle?”
The researchers also sought to determine
whether other high-risk behaviors are associated with texting while driving and
if state laws prohibiting drivers from texting are effective among high school
Survey results showed that males were more likely to text while
driving than females (46 percent vs. 40 percent), and the prevalence of texting
increased with age (52 percent of those over 18 years; 46 percent of
17-year-olds; 33 percent of 16-year-olds; and 26 percent of 15-year-olds).
Furthermore, teens who reported texting while driving were more
likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence
of alcohol, having unprotected sex and using an indoor tanning device.
identifying associated high-risk behaviors such as these,” Bailin said, “it is
our hope that we can develop more effective mechanisms to reduce texting while
The researchers also found that state laws banning texting while
driving had little effect: 39 percent of teens reported texting in states where
it is illegal vs. 44 percent of teens in states that have no restrictions.
“Although texting while driving was slightly less common in
states that prohibit it, the reality is that millions of teens text while
driving,” said senior investigator Andrew
Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen
Children’s Medical Center of New York. “Regrettably,
our analysis suggests that state laws do not significantly reduce teen texting
“Technological solutions will likely need to be developed to
significantly reduce the frequency of texting while driving,” Dr. Adesman
concluded. “When it comes to teen texting while driving, phones will have to
get smarter if they are to protect teens (and others) from doing dumb things.”
the abstract, “Texting While Driving Among High
School Students: Analysis of 2011 Data from the National Youth Risk Behavior
Surveillance System (YRBSS),” go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS13L1_1512.160.
outside funding was received for this research.
Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations that
co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting – the American Pediatric Society, the Society
for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American
Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and
other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and
clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement
of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a
common mission of fostering the health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.