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Teens, texting and trouble

With one hand on the wheel and the other on her phone, Sunday Starbuck texts while in the driver’s seat (in her driveway). Starbuck has discussed the dangers of texting while driving with her parents, Summer and Tom. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
With one hand on the wheel and the other on her phone, Sunday Starbuck texts while in the driver’s seat (in her driveway). Starbuck has discussed the dangers of texting while driving with her parents, Summer and Tom.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

It’s obvious that texting and driving is dangerous, though a recent survey indicates that when it comes to the practice, some teens just aren’t getting the message.

But what do Bainbridge Island teens say?

“Yes, I do think it can be dangerous,” said Sunday Starbuck, a senior at Bainbridge High School.

Fellow Bainbridge High School student Makenzie Moody agrees. “I think texting while driving is dangerous because if the driver is looking at their phone they risk their own safety as well as others around them,” the sophomore said.

A recent survey conducted by State Farm, in partnership with Harris Interactive, provides insight into modern teens’ perceptions on texting and driving.

According to the survey, 57 percent of teens admitted to reading and sending text messages while driving —

22 percent admitted to the practice on a regular basis.

The same survey noted that teens who text while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash than those who don’t.

The survey also asked teens to compare texting while driving to the dangers of drinking and driving.

According to the results, only 76 percent of teens said that regular texting could lead to death while driving, while 90 percent said that drinking and driving would likely cause drivers’ demise.

“Overall we can draw (from the survey) that there is still a lot of work to be done around the dangers of texting and driving,” said Brad Hilliard of State Farm Insurance.

“As technology expands the message needs to expand with it. Texting, Facebook updates and tweets all pose a serious risk while driving and it is up to all of us to continue to raise the awareness,” he said.

Hilliard said that recent studies in the United Kingdom and at the University of Utah indicate that texting while driving is just as dangerous, if not more, than drinking and driving.

Though the perceptions of getting into an accident, without the result of death, were different. All teens felt similar that texting and drinking and driving are likely to cause an accident.

“Texting is a key communication avenue for teens,” Hilliard said. “The survey reveals that the majority of teens understand that texting and driving is a risk, but they do not see it as severe as drinking and driving.”

That view was also reflected on Bainbridge Island.

“I think texting and driving is dangerous but I don’t know if it’s as bad as drinking and driving,” Starbuck said.

Starbuck said that she does believe that texting while driving is a dangerous practice, however, and her parents have cautioned her about it.

Even so, she said some of her friends do text while driving, and sometimes she takes a peak at her cell phone, too.

“I have texted while driving,” Starbuck said.

“Usually because I have a preview of the text that shows up on my screen when I get a text. I just look to see who it’s from but

I don’t respond.”

Moody held a contrasting view.

“I think it is as dangerous, because driving under the influence is like driving blind,” Moody said.

Moody’s parents have spoken with her about texting and driving as well. She said that her friends don’t text while driving either.

Washington state law prohibits texting while driving.

And according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, distracted driving — which includes texting, talking on a cell phone, popping in a CD and other eyes-off-the-road activities — contributed to 758 deaths between 2004 and 2008 in Washington state, which is an average of 152 deaths per year.

BHS freshman Stian Jasok, who currently has his driving permit, is also aware of the dangers posed by texting and driving.

He’s not as sure if it can be compared to drinking and driving.

“I think it depends on how much you’ve had to drink,” Jasok said.

Jasok’s parents have also spoken with him about the topic, though he said that it isn’t a point of conversations among his friends.

State Farm’s survey was conducted in February and included 650 teens between the ages of 14 and 17.

“The survey revealed a sharp decline in parent and teen interactions about driving after the teen receives their license,” Hilliard said.

“Teens who refrain from texting while driving are much more likely to have regular talks with their parents about safe driving habits,” he added. “Keep talking and teaching, the first year of driving poses the highest crash risk for teens. The more aware they are of the dangers the better prepared they will be.”

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