One of the most serious concerns about teens and cell phones is their use of the technology while driving. Over half (52%) of teens ages 16-17 who own cell phones reported that they have talked on a cell phone while driving. Over a third (34%) have texted while behind the wheel. Boys and girls were equally likely to report both talking and texting while driving.
Nearly half (48%) of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting, and 40% say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. While filling out the focus group questionnaire, several teens expressed serious concerns about safety when this happens. As one middle school boy explained, "I do worry about it because what if you’re driving and not paying attention to the road. You can hit someone or make them hit you." Some of the teens differentiated between the risks of talking and texting. Another middle school boy wrote, "People texting worries me more than people calling people, because texting is more distracting than talking on the phone because you can pay more attention to the road when talking than texting."
Other teens were more blasé about cell phone use while driving. Some even described tactics they employed in order not to get caught doing it, such as a high school boy who admitted, "I wear sunglasses so the cops don’t see [my eyes looking down]." Participants also discussed tactics to mitigate the hazard it poses to driving. For example, some explained they would only text when the car was not moving, such as at a stop sign or traffic light. Others would read but not send texts while driving. "There’s a difference, I think," said one high school boy. "Because just reading a text isn’t that bad, it’s just reading and then moving on. If you’re texting, it’s going to take more time when you’re supposed to be driving, and that’s when most people get in accidents."
Many of the teens stated their parents use the cell phone while driving with them and others in the car. In addition to voice calling, parents are also texting. As one high school boy explained, "[My dad] drives like he’s drunk. His phone is just like sitting right in front of his face, and he puts his knees on the bottom of the steering wheel and tries to text." This type of comment was echoed by several other teens during the sessions.