Commentary

Colorado teens, cell phone use & driving

AAA Colorado has been promoting safety on the roadways since its founding more than 85 years ago. A primary focus has always been on teen driving. AAA Colorado and its traffic safety partners (Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Department of Transportation and the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association) were among the most vocal advocates to introduce the graduated driving licensing laws in Colorado. Today, AAA Colorado continues to be active with emerging teen driving issues, such as the growing danger of teens using their cell phones while driving.

In the November/December issue, the President's Message (page 6) described AAA Colorado's recent survey that focused on discovering more about teen driving habits and their knowledge of the current state law regarding cell phone use and driving.

The survey results will help AAA Colorado, parents, teachers and other teen advocates to fashion better targeted, effective educational messages about driving safety.

Additionally, the statewide survey shows how Colorado teens compare to teens who took a nationwide survey conducted earlier in 2007 by the AAA Association.

AAA Colorado's survey, conducted online, attracted more than 460 teens from 84 different Colorado towns. Answers ranged from expected to startling. While the full survey, results and many teen personal stories can be found at aaa.com/teens, following is a sampling:

While 97% believe text messaging while driving is dangerous, 51% admitted to sending or receiving text messages while driving (compared to 46% in the national survey), and 66% admitted to talking on their cell phone while driving (compared to 51% in the national survey). This means that many Colorado teens are still text messaging and driving despite acknowledging it's a dangerous activity.

Interestingly enough, 74% of teen respondents did not know the traffic law for cell phone use in Colorado (not allowed during the permit stage; allowed after that).

Additionally, despite the fact that many teens admit to using their cell phone while driving, 81% of respondents believe there should be some legal limitation on cell phone use while driving, and 73% say strict driving penalties such as losing their license would make them less likely to text message while driving.

AAA Colorado and its safety partners hope these results will awaken the public and parents to the heavy use of cell phones by teens while they drive. It is also hoped these results will lead parents to more closely monitor their teens' cell phone use as well as to take a more active role in setting a positive example. (For more information, or to get your high school involved, contact Wave Dreher, AAA Colorado's traffic safety specialist, 303-753-8800, ext. 8105.)

One thing is certain: these survey results will definitely lead AAA Colorado and its safety partners to increase education efforts. For in the end, it all comes down to helping Colorado teens become better, safer drivers.

EnCompass