BOISE – A nationwide survey of a thousand teen drivers by AAA and Seventeen magazine shows that nearly half admit to text messaging while driving, while 66 percent say they have exceeded the speed limit by 10 miles per hour or more.

The survey, featured in Seventeen magazine’s August issue, on newsstands July 10, shows that 61 percent of the 16 and 17 year old teen drivers surveyed admit to risky driving habits including text messaging, 46 percent; and talking on cell phones, 51 percent. In addition, among the 61 percent who admit to the risky behaviors, two-thirds (66%) admit to exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more and 11 percent say they have driven after drinking or using illegal drugs.

Texting involves using a mobile phone to send and receive brief messages, which are typed out using the device’s keypad.

“Inexperience and poor decision-making ability no doubt contribute to teen motor vehicle crashes, which claim the lives of more than 6,000 15 to 20 year olds each year in this country,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson. “In addition to traditional distractions inside the vehicle and out, texting could become a major contributor to the teen crash epidemic.”

Indeed, two crashes in Idaho this summer made the news for that particular distinction. In one, the SUV the teen was driving slid sideways before rolling three times down an embankment, and landing on its roof. In the other, a passenger was thrown through the front windshield and the teen driver suffered a concussion.

One news story noted the texting driver asked her passenger to take the wheel. When the driver retook the wheel, she overcorrected the steering, leading to the crash.

Even though other teens in the vehicle are a factor in 25-50 percent of all crashes, 58 percent of the teen respondents in the survey admitted they drive with their friends in the car.

A new Idaho law, effective July 1, limits the number of passengers to one, who are not related to the new driver under 17. The law will address part of the problem related to passenger distractions following the time a new driver gets his or her license.

“Teens love to text, talk on their cell phones and hang out with their friends,” said Seventeen Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket. “But when you mix those social activities with young, inexperienced drivers, the results are dangerous and in many cases fatal.”

AAA’s Carlson said laws alone cannot level the playing field. “The alarming numbers in this survey show that we need to engage parents, law enforcement, teens and our communities to make sure young drivers keep their minds on driving.”

AAA Idaho said the survey is particularly timely since July and August are the deadliest months of the year for teen drivers.

The inexperience and immaturity of young drivers can be partially addressed by helping teens gain valuable driving experience in a low-risk learning environment which includes:

  • Minimizing distractions such as teen passengers, cell phones, MP3 players or CDs;
  • Driving during the daytime when crash and fatality rates are lower for teens drivers of all ages.
  • Providing positive driving role models through parents who exhibit safe driving behaviors, who do not drink an drive, and are courteous to other drivers.