CDC Survey Finds One-Third of HS Students Text While Driving
A new survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that although U.S. high school students have improved many health-risk behaviors related to motor vehicles, their texting and emailing while driving puts them at risk of auto accidents.
The 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), whose results were announced last Thursday, saw “dramatic improvements” in the last 20 years in the following areas, according to a CDC press release:
• From 1991 to 2011, the percentage of high school students who never or rarely wore a seatbelt declined from 26 to 8.
• From 1991 to 2011, the percentage of students who rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days declined from 40 to 24.
• The percentage of high school students who had driven a car during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol decreased from 17 in 1997 to 8 in 2011.
• Between 2009 and 2011 encouraging improvements were also shown in the percentage of students wearing a seat belt, not riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol and not driving a car when they had been drinking alcohol.
However, the YRBS found that technology has given high school drivers new risks, because one out of every three of these young people had texted or emailed while driving a vehicle during the past 30 days. This 2011 survey is the first one in which the CDC asked teens questions about texting or emailing while driving, the press release says.
An Associated Press article in USA TODAY notes:
Distracted driving deaths are most common in teens, blamed for about 16 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths.
Focusing on a cellphone instead of the road leads to delayed reaction times, lane swerves and other lapses with sometimes fatal consequences, experts say.
Thirty-nine states ban texting for all age groups, and an additional five states outlaw it for novice teen drivers. And authorities are increasingly cracking down. In the last two weeks, teens in Missouri and Massachusetts have been sentenced to jail — one for a year — for fatal accidents involving texting.
The release of the survey comes on the heels of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s unveiling of a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving,” as this blog reported last Friday, in which the DOT urges the 11 states without them to adopt laws against distracted driving, and asks car makers and technology providers to develop guidelines to reduce distractions from devices built or brought into vehicles.
As Melissa Healy writes for the Los Angeles Times blog Booster Shots, the survey shows that the worse offenders of texting while driving are high school seniors, among whom 56% of girls and 60% of boys had texted while driving during the previous 30 days. In her article entitled “Teens will text while driving (but at least they wear seat belts),” Healy notes that according to the survey, lack of sleep among high school students can also lead to car crashes, among other undesirable results:
And in what is perhaps the least-surprising finding: 67.6% of high school students routinely get fewer than eight hours of sleep during the school week — a risk behavior associated with poorer academic performance, automobile crashes, obesity and unsightly bags beneath the eyes.
More than 15,000 U.S. high school students participated in the 2011 national YRBS survey, for which parental permission was required, student participation was voluntary, and responses were anonymous, the CDC press release says. The 2011 report includes national YRBS data plus data from surveys conducted in 43 states and 21 large urban school districts, both of which groups were allowed to modify the questionnaire to meet their needs.
The survey also found that in addition to texting and emailing while driving, high school students engage in the following risky behaviors: in 2011, 18% were smoking cigarettes (as opposed to 19% in 2009), and marijuana use increased from 21% in 2009 to 23% in 2011. Current marijuana use among high school students (23%) was more common than cigarette use (18%), the survey found. You can see the 2011 study’s results here.
Image by U.S. Centers for Disease Control, used under Fair Use: Reporting.