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Despite Ban, Teens Using Cell Phones While Driving

According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, despite states’ efforts to outlaw teen drivers from chatting on their cell phones, it is occurring at the same level as before the bans went into effect.

Earlier this week, researchers released the finding of an in depth look at North Carolina’s teen driver cell phone ban. They found that even though 95% of parents and 74% of teens support the ban, the new law isn’t reducing the number of teens using their phones while driving. Prior to the ban going into effect, researchers observed 11% of teens leaving high schools with one hand on the wheel, one hand on their phone. Then, after the ban was passed, researchers went back to the same high schools and observed 12% of teens chatting away while driving.

Researchers found that females were more likely than their male counterparts to be using cell phones while driving. Teens observed driving SUVs were more likely to be chatting than teens driving cars. However, teen drivers were less likely to be using their cell phones if they had friends in the car, compared with those driving alone.

So far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning the use of cell phones and other communication devices by novice, teen drivers. This is in response to the fact that auto accidents are the number one killer of teenagers in the United States, and that teens are three-times more likely to die in a car crash than all other drivers. With the passage of the bans, lawmakers were hoping to curb this upward trend by keeping inexperienced drivers’ attention on the road, rather than what Kimmie is wearing to the dance on Friday night. After all, distracted driving, including driving while talking on a cell phone, is proving to be as risky of driving drunk.

However, despite the good intentions, the laws have yet to make a measurable impact. Some argue that it is just too early in the process to determine whether or not they are working. Others, say the bans are just simply unenforceable. In North Carolina, 71% of teens and 60% of parents felt as if enforcement of the bans is rare or non-existent. Only 22% of teenagers and 13% of their parents believed the laws were being enforced fairly often or a lot.

For a list of state law governing cell phone usage by teen drivers, click here.

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