Friends don't let friends text and drive, study shows - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Friends don't let friends text and drive, study shows

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(NBC) -- Peer pressure appears to be stopping teen drivers from texting while driving, according to a new national survey. Fewer than a third of teens say they text and e-mail when behind the wheel with friends in the car – although 95 percent admit to doing so when driving alone.

There's a similar drop in the number of young drivers who watch videos or post to social media sites, according to the 2013 teen driver study conducted for tire manufacturer Bridgestone Americas. And the figures drop even more sharply when there's a parent in the car.

Researchers say the findings suggest that while texting and e-mailing are an essential part of life for young drivers, it is becoming socially unacceptable to take risks while behind the wheel.

"The fact these actions are becoming socially unacceptable shows progress in the effort to raise awareness of the risks and consequences of distracted driving, but with this many teens admitting to engaging in the behavior privately, there is still much work to be done," said Angela Patterson, Manager, Teens Drive Smart Program, Bridgestone Americas.

Among the key findings of the new survey:

*When driving alone, 95 percent of the 2,065 young drivers interviewed admitted texting or e-mailing. That dropped to 32 percent with friends in the car and 7 percent in the company of parents;

*Over 90 percent of young drivers posted to social media sites when alone, but only 29 percent did so with others in the car, and just 5 percent when driving with parents;

*Three out of four will watch videos when driving alone, a figure that falls to 45 percent when with friends, and 7 percent when driving with parents in the car.

The survey also found that two thirds of the young drivers will drive when they're drowsy. A nearly equal number insisted they take extra precautions to ensure they don't get "too distracted" while driving. Curiously, most of the young drivers said they believe their friends are more likely to engage in risky behavior than they are.

The results of the survey suggests that widely publicized efforts to raise the flag on distracted driving may be having an impact, according to Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

"Now, it's part of a national conversation on safety that's happening between teens and parents in communities across America," he said, but despite "considerable progress," LaHood cautioned, "We still have work to do to help our youngest drivers get the message that cell phone use and driving never mix."

Distracted driving, in general, is catching the blame for more than 11 percent of all U.S. highway fatalities – or over 3,000 deaths annually. And it is considered a particularly serious problem among young motorists who have yet to develop the experience necessary to understand what it takes to drive safely.

There has been an unexpected increase in highway fatalities in recent studies after a decade of decline, and a report issued in February by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers surged a combined 19 percent during the first half of 2012, significantly faster than for the general population of motorists. Distracted driving appears to have been a key factor.

"We have to continue to reinforce that it's not okay to drive distracted alone or with others," asserted Bridgestone's Patterson. "It only takes one time to cause a crash that can injure yourself or someone else."

Copyright © 2009-2013, The Detroit Bureau

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