238084 Teenagers, Texting and Driving: A Hard Connection to Break

Monday, October 31, 2011

Theresa M. Enyeart Smith, PhD, CHES , Department of Health Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Maria T. Wessel, EdD, CHES , Department of Health Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Many who have had phones since their preteen years consider them a crucial part of their daily lives with calls, texting, emails etc. however, they can be deadly distractions. The National Safety Council estimates at least 1.6 million crashes are caused each year by drivers talking on cell phones and texting. A 2010 survey showed that nearly 90% of teenagers text or talk while driving even though they knew of the increased accident risks.


The purpose of this project was to address distracted driving behaviors among teenagers.


Over 3 years, Distracted Driving Awareness Day was conducted by student honor society Eta Sigma Gamma during which students completed a survey on distracted driving attitudes and behaviors. This year, students had the opportunity to sign the “Don't Drive Distracted Pledge”.


A total of 640 students completed the survey. Many reported inconsistent distracted driving behaviors and attitudes (58.3% who “often” text, and 63.2% who “sometimes” text while driving felt that it is a “very risky” behavior). Fall semester 2010, 280 students completed the survey and only 16.78% agreed to sign the “Don't Drive Distracted Pledge”. Follow up data is being collected on reasons for declining and adherence by those who did sign the pledge. Students are involved in proposing power, education and persuasive prevention strategies to reduce distracted driving behaviors.

Usefulness for Strengthening School Health:

This project is useful for school and university health promotion efforts designed to reduce distracted driving behaviors of teenagers.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify specific data on cell phone/texting use by teenagers 2. Describe the impact of distracted driving behavior on safety 3. Evaluate the inconsistency between knowledge and attitudes about distracted driving and risky driving behaviors 4. Discuss strategies to reduce cell phone use while driving

Keywords: Adolescents, Risky Behaviors

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My education and work experience are related to this topic.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.