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Consumer Reports: Eight in 10 Young Drivers Say Texting behind the Wheel Is Dangerous, Yet Nearly a Third Admit to Doing It

Nearly half of 16- to 21-year-olds Talked on a Handheld Phone While Driving in Past Month

Consumer ReportsYonkers, NY – While the vast majority of young drivers aged 16-21 agree that texting, using smart-phone apps, or accessing the Internet while driving is very dangerous, nearly a third (29 percent) admitted in a Consumer Reports survey that they had, in fact, texted while behind the wheel in the past month.

Forty-seven percent reported that they had made a phone call without a headset while behind the wheel, even though nearly two-thirds (63 percent) acknowledged that the behavior was perilous.

When Consumer Reports asked the young respondents why they had reduced or stopped distracted driving, 61 percent said it was because they had heard about the dangers of it. Other important reasons were laws banning cell phone use and/or texting in cars (40 percent) and family members urging respondents to stop (28 percent).  Nearly 20 percent knew someone who had been in a crash caused by distracted driving.

The Consumer Reports survey also revealed that having peers in the car may help curb distracted driving. Almost half who have driven with friends said they were less likely to talk on a handheld cell phone or text when friends were passengers. Consumer Reports notes that one reason for this may be that many young people are speaking up; almost 50 percent said they had asked a driver to stop using a phone in the car because they feared for their safety.

“Our survey showed that while far too many young people are driving while distracted, they are less likely to do so when their parents, friends, or siblings set a good example,” said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports Auto Editor. “We encourage everyone to stop the car in a safe place if they need to use a cell phone. And if they’re riding with a driver using a handheld phone, ask him or her to put it down and stop gambling with their safety.”

Additional findings from the Consumer Reports survey of 16- to 21-year-olds include:

  • 84 percent saw other young people talking on a handheld phone while driving
  • 71 percent saw a peer texting while behind the wheel
  • 48 percent witnessed their mom or dad talking on a handheld phone while driving
  • 15 percent witnessed their mom or dad texting while behind the wheel
  • 8 percent operated smart phone apps while driving in the last 30 days
  • 7 percent used e-mail or social media while behind the wheel in the last 30 days

The questionnaire was fielded online by Knowledge Networks from November 23rd, 2011 to December 13th, 2011.  Knowledge Networks selects households for its panels using address based sampling methods. Analyses were conducted with the sample weighted to reflect national demographics.

A total of 1,049 surveys were completed by adults aged 16 to 21 years.  Knowledge Networks received parental or legal guardian consent for all panelists aged 17 or younger.  The margin of error is +/- 3.03 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

The full report can be found in the June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports on sale today and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.   Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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