AT&T officials visit Cheverus, release study: 43% of teens admit to texting and driving

The folks from AT&T have been visiting high schools all over the nation as part of a program to urge teen cellphone carriers not to use the phones — especially for texting –while operating a motor vehicle.

Today, they were scheduled to be joined at Cheverus High School by representatives from the Portland Police Department and Bureau of Highway Safety, according to an announcement issued today by Canney Communications.

This is not the first time the AT&T safety roadshow came to a school within arm’s reach of me, but on this occasion, the phone company released the results of a nationwide study it commissioned on the topic of distracted driving.

Portland High School students look over the scene of a mock crash on Cumberland Avenue in this May 2, 2012, file photo, taken the day after an Oxford teen was arrested for manslaughter after allegedly crashing her car while texting. The crash caused the death of two passengers in the car. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

The study reportedly found that 97 percent of teen respondents knew that texting while driving is dangerous, and 43 percent admitted to doing it anyway. In what’s perhaps a more accurate reflection of teen habits, 75 percent of the respondents said their friends text and drive.

Part of the motivation for the dangerous multitasking is a presumption among youths that texts are important to react to quickly (Typically when I receive texts, they’re decidedly not urgent, and I work in an industry where we’re all fighting for the quickest technological way to break news, so I can’t imagine that teenagers are texting things of truly great importance back and forth… but maybe I’m a grumpy curmudgeon.) A huge chunk of survey respondents — 89 percent — told AT&T that when they send texts to friends, they expect a response within five minutes.

Because, like, how am I going to know whether Bobby “Likes Me” likes me, or just likes me?

Other interesting numbers from the study:

  • 77 percent of teen respondents said that while adults discourage texting while driving, the adults themselves “do it all the time.”
  • 54 percent of Hispanic respondents admitted to texting while driving, compared to 42 percent of African American respondents and 41 percent of Caucasion teens.
  • 89 percent said a phone app — like AT&T’s new DriveMode — that blasts off a quick reply text explaining that the recipient is driving and cannot immediately reply, would be helpful in driving down the urge to react to texts while driving (there’s always a sales pitch tied to these studies somewhere).

Here’s a statement on the subject by Owen Smith, regional vice president for AT&T in New England:

Memorial Day begins the deadliest 100 days on the road for teens, and we want to do everything we can to raise awareness with teens about dangers of texting and driving. As our survey indicates, while teens know that texting and driving is dangerous far too many of them admit to do it anyway.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.