When it comes to driving and teens there’s good news and not so good news.
Let’s look at the good news first.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that between 1991 and 2011 the percentage of high school students who said they never or rarely wore a seatbelt declined from 26 percent to 8 percent. That’s a very good drop in the percentage of students who don’t use their seatbelts when driving.
More good news.
The percentage of teens who said they have ridden with a driver that had been drinking alcohol declined from 40 percent to 24 percent. Good, but could use improvement. No one should be riding with a driver who has been drinking!
On that same note; the percentage of teens that said they had driven under the influence of alcohol in the last month declined from 17 percent to 8 percent between 1997 and 2011. Let’s hope this year’s numbers will be even lower.
“We are encouraged that more of today's high school students are choosing healthier, safer behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, and are avoiding behaviors that we know can cause them harm, such as binge drinking or riding with impaired drivers," said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health.
Now, for the not so good news.
A high percent of teens are using their cell phone while they are driving. That includes talking, texting and emailing. Last year was the first time that a question about cell phone use was included in the CDC survey. One in three students said they had sent a text or an email while driving.
Texting and cell phone use behind the wheel is "a national epidemic," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
"We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a Washington news conference to announce pilot projects in Delaware and California to discourage distracted driving.
In the survey, about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or e-mailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing.
Some students who had been in an accident because they were texting, said they will continue texting while driving. That’s pretty discouraging.
States are beginning to crack down on texting and driving. Thirty-nine ban texting for all age groups, and an additional five states outlaw it for novice teen drivers. 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 high use of cell phones while driving has brought out the entrepreneurs and business savvy app companies. Apps and adaptors are available that will block your cell phone from receiving calls, texts, or emails while the car is in motion. Calls go directly to voicemail, emails and texts are stored until the phone is unblocked.
The 2011 survey is based on responses from more than 15,000 U.S. high school students. The survey is conducted yearly among U.S. youth.