Study finds teens who admit to texting and driving also admit to other risky driving behaviours

News Release Release Date: October 22, 2015 9:15 a.m.

Research involving teenage drivers primarily in Ontario identifies a potential decline in high frequency texting and driving. “The good news is that we found a significant drop in the percentage of youth who reported “sometimes” to “almost always” texting and driving, from 27% in 2012 to 6% in 2014,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Sean Tucker, University of Regina.

Participants were asked to indicate how frequently they engage in texting while driving on a five point response scale ranging from “almost never,” to “sometimes,” to “almost always.”

“We also examined teenagers’ risk-taking behaviours while driving including texting, speeding and talking on a phone,” noted Tucker. “Unfortunately we found that while teens reported that they were texting and driving less frequently than speeding or talking on the phone, these behaviours were closely associated with each other.  In other words, those who said they texted and drove were also more likely to say they would speed or talk on the phone while driving.” While males indicated they were more likely to text and drive than females there was no difference in the rate of males and females who said they talked on a phone while driving.

As part of the 2014 survey, Sean Tucker and co-author Simon Pek (Simon Fraser University) analyzed 169 reasons provided by teen drivers who reported dramatically reduced frequency of texting and driving. “Some of the reasons why drivers indicated they didn’t text and drive included the perceived danger, laws and fines for texting and driving, and experiencing close calls and accidents by other drivers,” says Tucker. “Our research design does not allow us to make causal statements about the reason for the decline in the frequency of teen-reported texting while driving because the group of teens surveyed in 2012 is entirely different from the group of teens surveyed in 2014. For example, it’s possible that the decrease may be related to factors such as an increase in the stigma associated with disclosing texting while driving behaviour in an on-line survey like ours. Further, the texting while driving survey statement varied slightly between the surveys (“Texting while driving” versus “Texting while I am driving”).”

The Prevalence of texting while driving and other risky driving behaviours of young people in Ontario, Canada: Evidence from 2012 and 2014, published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, November 2015, is based on responses from two different sets of unemployed teenagers, primarily residing in Ontario. In total 6,133 youth were surveyed in 2012 (only 4425 responded to the texting while driving question) and 4,450 youth in 2014 (1069 responded to the texting while driving question). The research was conducted by Dr. Sean Tucker, Simon Pek, Jayne Morrish, Parachute Canada, and Megan Ruf, University of Regina, with the support of Parachute Canada.

This year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 19 – 25 recognizes that teen driver safety is a huge issue in Canada. Young people only make up 13% of licensed drivers, but account for approximately one quarter of all road-related injuries and fatalities. Most of these injuries and deaths can be prevented.

According to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police a driver using a mobile device is four times more likely to be in a crash than a driver who is focused on driving. The Canadian Automobile Association reports driver distraction is a factor in 4 million vehicle crashes each year. The authors hope that growing societal awareness, more focused government interventions, and continuing research on the problem will help reduce the incidence of risky driving behaviours and their associated consequences.


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