AT&T, together with SKDKnickerbocker and Beck Research, polled some 1,200 teens between the ages of 15 and 19, along with an unspecified number of adult drivers. The results show that teenagers are moderately smarter about texting while driving than the adults. But that's still not saying much.
The results reveal that 49% of commuters send text messages or emails when behind the wheel, compared to 43% of teenagers. Six out of 10 commuters polled said three years ago they never would have sent messages when driving, and 40% admitted that the behavior has become a habit.
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An interesting finding of the study shows that teens regard texting while driving and texting when at a red light as two separate activities.
Teens clearly understand that texting while driving is bad, with 97% confirming that the activity is dangerous. But that number drops to 70% when they're asked about texting while stopped at a red light. In addition to those who admit to texting while driving, 60% of teens say they send messages when stopped at a red light, 61% glance at their phones while driving, and 73% glance at their phones when stopped at a red light.
AT&T didn't provide similar results for the adults polled, but the teens ratted out their parents.
Nearly 9 out of 10 teens said their own parents are good role models when it comes to texting behind the wheel, but they call adults hypocrites. Nearly 8 in 10 teens said they see adults (but not necessarily their own parents) texting behind the wheel all the time.
AT&T is aggressive about promoting safe driving practices. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and AT&T is using these poll results to call attention to its own "It Can Wait" campaign. If you've purchased an AT&T handset recently, you've probably noticed a sticker protecting the screen with the "It Can Wait" message printed on it. It's a particularly important issue to businesses because they can be held liable if their employees cause accidents when texting behind the wheel.
"Businesses can help keep their employees and others on the road safe by encouraging responsible behavior behind the wheel, including obeying all laws related to the use of electronic devices," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue.
Laws vary by state, but the dangers of texting behind the wheel are well documented. A study commissioned by Car and Driver several years ago showed that drivers who text are often more dangerous than drivers who are drunk.
Companies would do well, in this case, to heed AT&T's message and make sure employees are not sending messages when their eyes should be on the road.
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