A survey commissioned by US telecoms giant AT&T has found that 43% of teens admit to sending a text while driving, with adults setting a poor example too.

The research was carried out as part of the company’s It Can Wait campaign, which seeks to highlight the dangers of texting and driving. With prom and graduation season kicking off, and the summer holidays not far away, AT&T is reminding youngsters of the need to focus on the road as we enter the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers, the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Texting: Popular with teens

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that texting ranks as the most popular mode of communication among teens. On average, teens text five times more a day than a typical adult. And AT&T say that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in an accident or near-accident.

The survey found that one of the reasons that teenagers do text and drive is that they feel pressure to respond to text messages quickly. Almost all teens (89%) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less. Other main takeaways from the survey include:

  • 75% of teens say texting while driving is very dangerous, even though 43% admit to doing just that.
  • 70% of teens believe texting while stopped at a red light is dangerous, yet 60% of teens admit to doing so, and 73% admit to glancing at their phone at a red light.
  • 61% of teens say they glance at their phone while driving, and 61% have seen their friends read or send an email, or text, while driving.
  • According to 77% of teens, adults tell kids not to text while driving – yet they said that adults do it themselves “all the time.” Indeed, 41% of teens report seeing their parents read or send an email, or text, while driving.

Whilst AT&T’s attempts to deter teenagers from texting and driving are to be applauded, it also takes the opportunity to guide youngsters towards its DriveMode app, which launched last year. DriveMode provides a customizable auto-reply message notifying friends that the user is driving and will respond when it is safe to do so.

“Our survey also evaluated teen opinions of drinking and driving compared to texting while driving,” says AT&T Director of Consumer Safety & Education, Andrea Brands. “While we’re happy to report that 60 percent of them understand texting while driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving, there’s still work to be done to make this behavior just as socially unacceptable.

“These findings help foster even more dialogue on the issue with teens and parents – and we hope the tools we offer like our mobile application, documentary and educational toolkit help in driving home the message that absolutely no text is worth risking a life,” she continued.

To help address the issue and demonstrate the risks of texting while driving, AT&T is embarking on a US tour with a texting-while-driving simulator, offered by The Peers Foundation. The tour is traveling to local high schools across the US from May 8-June 1. The simulator is a computerized car that lets users virtually text and drive: