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.