Texting harms more teens than smoking

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

text driving
Being distracted by texts while driving can be as bad as driving drunk.

Teens are notorious for their risky decision-making, whether it comes to underage drinking, impulsive driving behaviors, or choosing to smoke nasty cigarettes. The good news is that the number of young adults engaging in these bad habits is going down! However, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more and more teens are texting while driving, which is a major threat to their lives and others.

The CDC surveyed about 13,000 teens in several schools across the country about how often they smoke, how frequently they take safety measures (like wearing a seatbelt in a car or a helmet on a bike), and their tendency to text and drive.

Much to the pleasant surprise of the researchers, there were several positive trends. For instance, the study showed that the number of smoking teens has gone down to just 15.6 percent, or less than 1 in every 6 teens. Experts didn’t expect numbers to be down this low until the year 2020, and they credit different media campaigns for such a low percentage.

On the negative side, however, the survey revealed that about 40% of kids admitted to texting and emailing while behind the wheel. Even worse is that 10% of teens confessed to driving while drunk, while an additional 22% of teens confessed they’d ridden in a car with someone who had been drinking. When taken together, these statistics show a tremendous threat to the lives of teen drivers, their passengers, and other drivers on the road; after all, past research has shown that driving distracted is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Overall, this new data reveals a bittersweet trend among American teenagers. Hopefully, with the right amount of campaigning and prevention programs, the number of distracted and intoxicated driving will be as low as those for the smokers.

Image of texting passenger courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation.