The topic of teen drivers and distracted driving was back in the headlines Monday when charges against a 17-year-old Little Falls girl revealed that she had been sending and receiving several Facebook messages in the minutes prior to a fatal crash last July in Sherburne County that killed Charles P. Maurer, 54, of Becker, and his daughter Cassy.

The fear of getting in a crash didn't deter Carlee R. Bollig from using her phone while behind the wheel, but a majority of teens 16 to 19 who responded to a survey conducted by State Farm Insurance say the fear of getting in a crash is a strong enough deterrent to keep them from driving while distracted.  Fear of being caught by police came in second according to the survey given to  learn more about teens' attitudes and behaviors when it comes to distracted driving.

This is National Teen Driver Safety Week, a week in which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other organizations across the country are teaming up to focus on safety and seek solutions to the leading cause of death for 14- to 18-year-olds. 

In 2013, there were 2,614 teen (15-19 year old) vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured, according to NHTSA.

According to the State Farm survey, 90 percent of teens say they understand that texting while driving is distracting, 44 percent said they do it anyway.

"As nearly all teenage drivers now own smartphones, we must continue our work to understand and address the wide array of distractions that young people face,” said Chris Mullen, director of Technology Research at State Farm. “This survey shows us some of the perceptions that influence distracted driving behavior for teens, reinforcing the need for consideration of the best educational, technological, and legislative solutions, and continued parental support to help curb these types of behaviors among teens.”

The survey found that driving situations can play an important role in teen drivers’ decisions to participate in cell phone-related distracted driving behaviors that involve looking at the cell phone and interacting with the screen and/or buttons.

  • Sixty-seven percent of teen drivers who use their cell phone while driving reported that being stopped at a red light makes them more likely to use their cell phone compared to when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Three-quarters of teens said they were less likely to use their cell phone when adult passengers were in their vehicle compared to 58 percent who were less likely to use their phone when other teens were present.
  • At least two-thirds of teen drivers reported being “a lot less likely” to use their cell phone when driving in poor weather conditions such as rain, fog, snow, or ice.

Phone use is not the only distraction teens admit to. Other behaviors that contribute to them taking their eyes off the road include talking with another passenger, searching for music, taking pictures with their phone and interacting with a GPS or navigational system.

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