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New Study: Half of all College Students Text and Drive

If you thought teen drivers and texting was the big problem, wait until you get a load of a new study conducted by Fresno State University. According to published findings, half of all college students text or check email while driving.

What’s worse, college students say they ignore anti-texting and driving laws and even continue to text or check email after they’ve experienced a close call while doing so.

All these findings came about through a study conducted by Tamyra Pierce, an associate professor of mass communication and journalism at Fresno State in California.

California successfully banned drivers from using cell phone handsets back in 2006, and according to Pierce’s study, 87% of the study subjects were aware of the law. Still, 49% of the 409 students she surveyed admitted that they still used cell phone handsets, texted or checked email while behind the wheel. Of the college students who admitted to illegal behavior, 84% reported that they text while driving.

Pierce conducted a similar study last year, and at the time only 62% of young people surveyed admitted to texting while driving.

“Texting while driving is hazardous at any age but it is especially dangerous for younger drivers who have not yet gained adequate driving experience,” says Ms. Pierce. “Those few seconds one looks away from the road to text on the cell phone may be the seconds the driver needs to prevent an accident — one that may be fatal.”

Past studies have found that texting while driving reduces reaction and control times even more than drinking and driving – 35 percent vs. 12 percent with a blood alcohol level within the legal limit. In addition, texting while driving also reduces steering and control of car by 91 percent. As we reported here on the MLN Law Blog last week, even driving while talking on a cell phone – with or without using a handset – was proven to cause approximately 1,000 fatalities back in relatively less cell-phone-happy 2002, the only year study data is available.

College students have created a virtual culture of texting. Of Pierce’s survey respondents — 196 females and 213 males age 18-25 – a majority had owned a cell phone more than five years and 99 percent had texting capabilities. The survey found that 52 percent had a Bluetooth or other hands-free device, 81 percent had “unlimited” texting service and average usage was 1,000-3,000 texts per month.

When asked if their texting had caused any consequences, 33 percent answered that they almost hit something while texting, 21 percent missed a turn, 8 percent ran off the road, 3 percent got into an accident and 2 percent ran a red light, hit something or got a ticket.