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3,000 lives lost last year... but almost six in ten male teens continue to use their phones while driving

A new study from the United States shows that texting while driving has now overtaken drinking and driving as the primary cause of death among teens in the country, claiming 3,000 lives a year, compared to 2,700 who are killed as a result of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

According to a CBS New York report, the study, by the Cohen Children’s Medical Centre in New Hyde Park on Long Island, found that despite most states having enacted laws to prohibit texting while driving, accompanied by road safety campaigns, most male teens who drive continue to text at the wheel – 57 per cent in states that ban it, and 59 per cent in states that don’t.

The findings are in line with a similar study published last year in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that 58 per cent of high school seniors admitted having texted or emailed while driving during the previous month, reported on NBC News.

“The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week — they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this a more common occurrence,” the author of the latest study, Dr Andrew Adesman, who is in charge of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center told CBS.

He has suggested that one way of combating the danger would be through employing mobile phone apps that sense when a vehicle is in motion and prevent a phone from making or receiving text messages, among other things – such technology has been around for a while, for example the Otter app we profiled back in 2010.

Last year in the UK, road safety charity IAM published results of research it had conducted using the Transport Research Laboratory’s DigiCar simulator which found that accessing social networks while driving was more dangerous than driving while drunk or after smoking cannabis.

A survey from Halfords earlier this year into smartphone use at the wheel found, among other things, that 57 per cent of under-25s admitted reading text messages while driving.

While that percentage is strikingly similar to the US report's findings, it may hide underlying differences - the age groups are different, teens in many US states can drive at a much earlier age than their counterparts in the UK, and here alcohol is much more widely available to younger people.

Dave Poulter, the company’s In-Car Technology Manager, said that the survey results “paint a disturbing picture of what is happening on the UK’s roads and the emerging trend towards using mobile phones to link with social media while driving is extremely worrying.”

Reaction on radio phone-in shows to the Cohen Children's Medical Centre's survey reflected a lack of surprise about the findings.

One caller told WCBS 880: “Every single day I see it. People driving along, texting, talking on their phone. They’re not supposed to do it, but they do it — kids, grown-ups, everybody does it.”

A former police officer told 1010 WINS: “I’ve seen it first-hand, it does cause accidents, it’s dangerous and it’s irresponsible. A vehicle is a weapon, just as a gun or a knife, and you can kill people.

“You don’t deserve to have a driver’s license and that level of responsibility where you can kill people if you’re not willing to take precautions, such as not texting and driving.”

According to CBS New York, studies have found that people texting while driving are up to 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision.

Schools including the New York Institute of Technology and Freeport High School have had students take part in driving simulations that highlight just how dangerous it is to text while at the wheel, it reports.

Earlier this month, Florida became the 40th of the 50 states of the USA to ban texting while driving. In New York, one senator has called for tougher laws to be imposed on offenders.

Senator Charles Fuschillo, who represents Long Island in the New York State Senate, said in March that fines should be increased and that there should be harsher penalties for repeat transgressors.

“It goes up to $400 but all the penalties in the world aren’t going to stop someone from being irresponsible,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

12 comments

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Coleman [331 posts] 2 years ago
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“You don’t deserve to have a driver’s license and that level of responsibility where you can kill people if you’re not willing to take precautions, such as not texting and driving.”

Quite. Don't fine offenders or give them a few points. Take away their licence.

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I love my bike [107 posts] 2 years ago
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Or raise the age for being able to get a car licence until after high school?

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rJD [11 posts] 2 years ago
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Saw a woman texting while driving up to a bike shop with two kids in the back of the car. Couldn't help thinking what her reaction would be if one of her kids had been in an incident caused by another driver texting.

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crazy-legs [702 posts] 2 years ago
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Anyone caught using a phone while driving should have it smashed on the road in front of them. Caught for a second time within 6 months, impound the car for a month.

No exceptions, no excuses, it's only something as draconian as that which is going to get people's attention. Of course, it'd actually need some police out on the roads to enforce it...

Willing to bet that after the initial bleating from "human rights" campaigners (and the first few dozen people caught) the number of incidents of phone use while driving would decrease quite dramatically.

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joemmo [1145 posts] 2 years ago
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it's not just male teens, it's both genders and people who are old enough to know better.

@Crazy Legs - I think your proposal is too mild to be honest, I'd hit them with 6 points and a big fine on first offense (both of which will hit the pocket -especially with younger drivers) then a ban.

As for catching the offenders, can the police set up hidden cameras or patrols to watch for it or does it need to be advertised in the same way speed cameras are?

If the latter then I don't hold much hope for being able to crack down, would just be too labour intensive otherwise.

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antonio [1102 posts] 2 years ago
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Just stick cops in plain clothes,(or lycra) on bikes, the prosecutions will come rolling in.

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therevokid [911 posts] 2 years ago
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antonio wrote:

Just stick cops in plain clothes,(or lycra) on bikes, the prosecutions will come rolling in.

They'd all be knocked off/killed/maimed by the arseholes
using the bloody phones  14

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Gizmo_ [1332 posts] 2 years ago
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The only reason we have the rule in this country is so that when a driver has an accident while texting, they get nailed for contributory negiligence and the insurer reclaims their costs from the perpetrator. Nothing to do with stopping it at all.

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 2 years ago
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This doesn't surprise me at all, bloody mobile phones.

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
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Why isn't this treated the same as drink driving? Both legally and socially?

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ragtag [200 posts] 2 years ago
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drfabulous0 wrote:

Why isn't this treated the same as drink driving? Both legally and socially?

Agree.

So few people are caught, the penalty is next to nothing and it is not yet socially unacceptable. At least not with some of the f**k wits around here.

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stumps [3182 posts] 2 years ago
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I catch on average 5 people a day on phones. All get reported and go to court, no tickets or bollockings.

We dont have the manpower to do it any more effectively. Today my shift consisted of 3 cops covering approx 45,000 people.