Risk survey tracks teens
>Results show texting and driving has increased
MILFORD – Texting while driving seems to have replaced drinking and driving as the risky behavior of choice among high school students.
Despite statistics that show distracted driving has become a major safety problem, nearly half the teens in a survey released recently said they text and drive. Many more teens are texting while driving than are drinking and driving.
In a 2015 risk survey, the percentage of Milford High School students reporting that they have driven a vehicle after drinking was 5.8 percent.
In contrast, when Milford students were asked if they ever texted or emailed while driving, 44.1 percent said yes.
Regional and statewide percentages were similar to Milford’s.
Milford High and other high schools in New Hampshire took part in a nationwide risk survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late winter and early spring 2015.
That was a few months before New Hampshire’s hands-free driving law went into effect on July 1, 2015, so the effect of the law on teen driving behavior is unknown.
What is known is that cellphone use while driving is dangerous.
One study at the University of Utah in 2006 using a high-tech driving simulator found that cellphone users may show greater impairment – more accidents and less responsive driving behavior – than legally intoxicated drivers.
The data also calls into question laws that permit hands-free cellphone use.
"No significant differences were found in the impairment to driving caused by the two modes of cellular communication," it found.
According to an organization called EndDD (End Distracted Driving), started by parents of a 21-year-old woman killed as she was crossing a New York City street at a four-way stop, distracted driving is so dangerous because it involves all three kinds of distractions – manual, visual and cognitive – when your mind wanders from the task of driving.
New Hampshire banned sending text messages while driving in 2009. The 2015 law, along with prohibiting hands-on phone use, extends that texting ban to reading text messages, playing games, watching videos or searching the internet.
Drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from talking on a phone, hands-free or not.
The survey shows the number of Milford students saying they texted or emailed while driving was down slightly from the 2013 percentage of 45.7 percent.
The survey results were posted recently on the SAU 40 website at m i l f o r d k 1 2 . o r g / w p – content/uploads/2016/ 05/2015-Youth-Risk- Behavior-Survey.pdf.