Send to

Choose Destination
Traffic Inj Prev. 2010 Dec;11(6):549-54. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2010.516036.

Talking and texting among teenage drivers: a glass half empty or half full?

Author information

Highway Safety Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3430, USA.



Cell phone use and text messaging in particular are associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes. However, the frequency with which teenagers use cell phones while driving is still largely unknown.


The current study obtained self-reported cell phone use behaviors while driving, including text messaging, along with beliefs about these actions, for a sample of licensed teenage drivers. Questionnaires were mailed to a random sample of 1947 high-school-age teens in 2 large metropolitan areas in North Carolina. Questionnaires were completed and returned by 537 teens, of whom 320 had an intermediate or full driver's license.


In total, 45 percent of teens reported using a cell phone in some capacity during their most recent trip. Fifteen percent reported that they only talked on a cell phone, 15 percent sent or read a text message only, and 15 percent both talked and texted. More generally, 12 percent of teens reported that they often talked on a cell phone while driving, 4 percent reported that they often initiated a text conversation while driving, 11 percent said that they often replied to texts, and 23 percent often read text messages. Teens reported using several strategies to reduce the risk associated with using a cell phone while driving. Among teens who had ever talked on a cell phone while driving, 47 percent said that they try to keep their conversations short because they are driving. Among teens who had ever texted while driving, approximately half said that they often wait until it feels safe to read and reply to text messages (58% and 47%, respectively).


Most teens surveyed reported having talked or read or sent a text message using a cell phone while driving. Somewhat less than half engaged in one of these behaviors the last time they drove. However, many teens reported using strategies to reduce this risk and in certain instances, cell phone nonuse was the normative behavior. Better measurement of the extent and nature of phone use while driving is needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center