The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that car crashes kill more teens each year than anything else. Teens know the dangers of driving and cellphone use, yet do it anyway, revealed a new study.
Catherine McDonald, assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing and in the Perelman School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, said, "We like to think about it as driver inattention. We think about inattention relative to their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving."
McDonald and Marilyn (Lynn) Sommers conducted the focus groups during summer 2014 and then analyzed what they learned. Their ultimate goal, what they're working on now, is to develop an intervention to keep teens safe on the roadways.
Two central points emerged- Cell-phone use and passengers. Though the former can be an issue for anyone behind the wheel, the latter was particularly poignant to this group, all of whom had been driving for a year or less. Across the board, the teens said that they understood the dangers of texting while driving, but they still engaged in the behaviors. Some teens said they didn't do it - until the researchers dug a little deeper and found out what that really meant.
McDonald said, "The definition of 'texting while driving' is not the same for everyone. For example, in their responses the teens would indicate that they didn't text and drive, but then later would say something like, 'At a red light, I'll check my phone.'"
The interviewees made a distinction the interviewers hadn't. The data also helped them understand how teens differentiated between texting and social media use; checking Twitter, for example, wasn't texting while driving. Neither was taking a passenger's picture.
Sommers called it a classification system, a continuum of sorts, whereby some actions are too dangerous to ever happen but others, though generally considered unsafe, fall into a grey area.
The study appears in the Traffic Injury Prevention.