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Are teens or adults more likely to text while driving?

A new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project says adults are more likely to text while driving than teens. The study also says adults are substantially more likely to have talked on the phone while driving.

According to the study, nearly half of all adults who text have done so while driving, which compares to 34 percent of teens aged 16-17 who text. The survey also shows that a large amount of both adults and teens have talked on the phone while driving - 74 percent of adults that have cell phones are guilty of doing so, and 52 percent of teens.

The study also shows that cell phone distraction doesn't just happen while driving: 17 percent of adults in the study say they've physically run into another person or object while talking or texting on their cell phones.

From the Pew report:

  • Nearly half (47%) of all texting adults say they have sent or read a text message while driving. That compares to one in three (34%) texting teens ages 16-17 who said they had "texted while driving" in a September 2009 survey.1
  • Looking at the general population, this means that 27% of all American adults say they have sent or read text messages while driving. That compares to 26% of all American teens ages 16-17 who reported texting at the wheel in 2009.
  • Three in four (75%) cell-owning adults say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. Half (52%) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 reported talking on a cell phone while driving in the 2009 survey.
  • Among all adults, that translates into 61% who have talked on a cell phone while driving. That compares to 43% of all American teens ages 16-17 who said they had talked on their phones while driving in the 2009 survey.
  • Half (49%) of all adults say they have been in a car when the driver was sending or reading text messages on their cell phone. The same number (48%) of all teens ages 12-17 said they had been in a car "when the driver was texting."2
  • 44% of all adults say they have been in a car when the driver used the cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. About the same number of teens (40%) said they had been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a dangerous way.
  • Beyond driving, one in six (17%) cell-owning adults say they have physically bumped into another person or an object because they were distracted by talking or texting on their phone. That amounts to 14% of all American adults who have been so engrossed in talking, texting or otherwise using their cell phones that they bumped into something or someone.

Currently, twenty-eight states prohibit texting while driving.

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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