Danish Hasan knows a thing or two about the dangers of texting while driving.
Not long after receiving his license, Hasan nearly veered off the road and onto a sidewalk while sending a short text message, recovering control of the vehicle just in time to avoid hitting several pedestrians. Hasan said this close call taught him a lesson about how quickly one can become distracted, and now he's an advocate for putting the phone away while driving.
As for why teens in particular seem so willing to take this risk while behind the wheel? Hasan, a 17-year-old from Algonquin, Illinois, believes it has to do with new social realities.
"Kids my age want to stay in touch," said Hasan. "We like instant communication, and many kids worry what their friends will think if they don't answer a text message immediately."
Kids worry what their friends will think if they don't answer a text message immediately.
There's no denying it: Texting is a part of the mainstream culture, and for many young people, texting is an essential means of communication. While we now know texting does demonstrably affect reaction times – The National Safety Council estimates that 200,000 crashes each year are caused by drivers who are texting – stories like Hasan's tell us that not all drivers have gotten the message: Texting while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk, if not more dangerous. Both forms of impairment cause casualties on the road.
Approximately 200,000 crashes each year are caused by drivers who are texting.
In a September 2012 a State Farm poll conducted by Harris Interactive found fewer teens view texting while driving as leading to fatal consequences as compared to drinking while driving. Of 14- to 17-year-olds who intend to have or already have a driver's license, the survey found that 36 percent strongly agree that if they regularly text and drive they could be killed one day. In contrast, the majority of teens (55 percent) strongly agree that drinking while driving could be fatal.
"Some teens still think the consequences of reaching for a cell phone are less severe than reaching for a beer bottle," said Laurette Stiles, Vice President of Strategic Resources at State Farm. "We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to helping teens understand that texting while driving can be every bit as dangerous as drinking while driving. It's an awareness gap that must be addressed."
One way the issue can be addressed is through frank communication between parents and teen drivers. Of teens who talk often with their parents about driving, 82 percent strongly agree that if they regularly drink and drive they will get into an accident. That number falls to 72 percent among teens who rarely or never talk to their parents about driving.
A similar pattern was evident around texting while driving, but in these cases teens view the consequences of texting as less severe. In the survey, 67 percent of teens who often talk to their parents about driving strongly agree that if they regularly text and drive, someday they will get into an accident. This compared with 56 percent of teens who rarely or never talk to their parents about driving.
Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United States, and the majority of teens rely on their parents to learn how to drive. Sending the right message – and having the data to back it up – might make all the difference.
For more information about teen driver safety and tools for new drivers, visit http://teendriving.statefarm.com. See more at: http://learningcenter.statefarm.com/auto/teen-drivers/teen-driving-texts/#sthash.MFfEfqdA.dpuf.