PLAYING WITH FIRE: Although most young people are aware of the risks of distracted driving, there are few factors that will encourage them to stop.
Most young American drivers agree that it is dangerous to text while driving, but nearly a third admit they do it anyway, a survey by Consumer Reports shows.
While eight in ten said they knew of the risks, about 29% of drivers 16 to 21 said they had used text messaging in the past month, the survey found. And, 47% said they had made a phone call while driving, without a headset or other hands-free device.
The same survey showed that 48% said they had seen one or both of their parents using a cell phone without a hands-free device.
Nevertheless, 2011 had the fewest traffic fatalities in the United States in more than six decades although Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research for IHS Inc, said the number would have been even lower if not for traffic deaths caused by drivers who were distracted by using a mobile phone or engaged in other types of attention-dividing tasks.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that in 2010, some 3092 were killed in "distracted-affected crashes," or 9.4% of all road deaths.
A NHTSA survey earlier in 2012 showed that younger drivers from ages 18 to 20 showed the highest level of phone involvement in crashes or near-crashes. Drivers of this age are three times more likely to read or send an email or text message while driving than those 25 and older, the NHTSA survey found.
Reports of texting while driving drop sharply as age increases, NHTSA said.
Consumer Reports found that half the young drivers surveyed said they are less likely to text or use a handheld phone while driving if a friend is in the vehicle with them.
The Consumer Reports survey questioned 1049 people ages 16 to 21 and the NHTSA survey from earlier this year questioned 6000 people of driving age. Both surveys were of US drivers.