Over 60% of South Dakota teens admit to texting behind the wheel

We’ve all seen it while we’re driving, the person in the car next to you or behind you is looking down, eyes off the road, hand on their phone. Phone use and distracted driving is risky driving behavior with serious consequences. Distracted driving crashes kill thousands of people each year.

Distractions behind the wheel can be anything that takes your attention from the task at hand–a meal, your GPS or other passengers. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, texting while behind the wheel is the most dangerous. Texting combines three dangerous factors–it takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your attention from driving. When you send a text while traveling at 55 MPH, you cover the span of a football field in that five seconds–plenty of time to cause an collision.

Teens most at risk

In the last decade, teens and young adults aged 16-24 have been the highest risk age group for texting while driving, with the highest crash rate from distracted driving. Most teens know it’s dangerous and illegal, and yet, the behavior continues.

Despite increased publicity and tougher laws, a recent survey of 101,000 teenagers found that teens are still texting and sending emails while driving. Nationally, the rate is about 40% but in South Dakota, teens are texting behind the wheel at a rate of 64%. Four other largely rural states were among the top: North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.

The teens surveyed admitted to texting or sending an email at least once in the previous 30 days and the occurrence rate increased as they got older–18-year-olds were more likely to text behind the wheel than 15-year-olds. The researchers fear that phone use while driving might be even higher as it only questioned the occurrence of texting and emailing, not using other apps, making calls or taking pictures.

Discourage the behavior

If you’re the parent of a teen or young adult, there are ways you can discourage phone use behind the wheel for your teen:

  • Model good behavior and don’t use your phone while driving.
  • Educate your teenagers about the dangers and risks of texting behind the wheel.
  • Offer monetary incentives for good driving habits.
  • Install apps that don’t allow phone use while driving.

Distracted driving is an entirely preventable public safety issue. Encourage your teens and young adults to make safe choices behind the wheel to keep themselves and everyone else safe on the roadways.