Poll: Younger drivers more likely to text and drive

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The U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports on Monday, March 7, announced a new partnership to educate parents, teachers and teens about the dangers of distracted driving. Consumer Reports also released the results of a new poll that shows younger drivers are more likely to use handheld devices while driving – and less likely to view them as a danger.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Jim Guest, the president of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, at the organization’s headquarters to discuss the risks of distracted driving at a panel discussion by safety experts representing schools, families and law enforcement. “Distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on America’s roads, and teens are especially vulnerable because of their inexperience behind the wheel and, often, peer pressure,” LaHood says. “Behind the statistics are real families who have been devastated by these tragedies.”

The nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed how widespread distracted driving is, especially among younger drivers:
• 63 percent of respondents under 30 years old reported using a handheld phone while driving in the past 30 days, and 30 percent of them texted while driving during the same period. That compares with 41 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of respondents who were 30 or older;
• Among the under-30 respondents, only 36 percent were very concerned about the problem of distracted driving, and only 30 percent felt it was very dangerous to use a handheld phone;
• 64 percent of respondents overall said they had seen other drivers texting using a handheld device in the past 30 days. 94 percent had observed drivers talking on a mobile phone, and 58 percent had seen a dangerous driving situation related to a distracted driver in the past month; and
• 78 percent of respondents overall said they had reduced or stopped behaviors related to distracted driving. Of that group, 66 percent said they did so because of reading or hearing about the dangers.

The survey was fielded in November 2010 with a total of 1026 respondents. According to DOT, nearly 5,500 people in the United States were killed and almost half a million were injured in accidents related to distracted driving in 2009; 18 percent of those fatal accidents involved the use of a cell phone.