The Worst Texting-While-Driving Offenders: Adults or Teens?

Nearly 50 percent of adults admit to texting while driving compared to 43 percent of teenagers, according to a survey by AT&T.

Teenagers have consistently been named the worst texting-and-driving offenders, but the AT&T survey shows that distracted driving is a serious problem for drivers of all ages. More than 98 percent of adults admit they know texting while driving is wrong, but knowledge of the danger has not stopped almost half of adult drivers from responding on the go.

More than 40 percent of survey respondents who admitted to texting behind the wheel say it is habit. In addition, over half of the 1,011 adults surveyed said they only started texting while driving in the past three years. In addition, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that, of all those who report feeling less safe on the road today compared to five years ago, nearly half attribute their concerns to distracted driving.

Texting while driving among teens can also be linked to adult behaviors, according to the AT&T Teen Driver Survey. While the majority of teens report being told not to text or email while driving, 77 percent of teens report that adults text behind the wheel “all the time.” But adult behaviors can also have a significant positive impact on teens’ texting-while-driving habits; a study by the AAA Foundation found that the likelihood of teens driving while distracted was markedly less when driving with a parent or other adult.

Among teenage drivers, those who are most prone to texting while driving are those who:

  • Use a smartphone
  • Send upwards of 100 text messages per day
  • Work part-time or full-time
  • Do not have a parental rule at home against texting while driving
  • Admit his or her parents are bad role models
  • Admit texting while driving is common among his or her friends

Washington was the first state to ban texting while driving back in 2007, and 43 more states have adopted similar bans since, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Another four states prohibit texting while driving for novice drivers.

Distracted driving continues to be a serious problem in the U.S., with an estimated 16 percent of fatal crashes caused by distractions. Of all distractions behind the wheel, using electronic devices (including texting, checking email, downloading music, etc.) accounts for 7 percent of all distractions, according to a study from the AAA Foundation.

However, other sources attribute a larger portion of the blame to distracted driving. A Governors Highway Safety Association report titled “Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do” found that distractions are associated with 15-25 percent of all vehicle accidents. The report also showed that:

  • Distractions significantly affect driving performance
  • Drivers are frequently distracted (possibly up to 50 percent of the time)
  • Texting while driving increases the risk of crash more than general cell phone use

Read more about AT&T’s findings regarding teen and adult cell phone use on the road on the AT&T website.