Car crashes are the #1 cause of preventable death for teens. But are teens really as distracted as we think?

A 2019 survey1 of U.S. high school students found:

  • 39% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.

  • Texting or emailing while driving was more common among older students than younger students and more common among white students (44%) than black students (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).

  • Texting or emailing while driving was as common among students whose grades were mostly As or Bs as among students with mostly Cs, Ds or Fs.

  • Students who texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to report other transportation risk behaviors. These included being:

  • more likely to not always wear a seat belt;

  • more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; and

  • more likely to drive after drinking alcohol.


Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019


Source: Yellman MA, Bryan L, Sauber-Schatz EK, Brener N. Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019.MMWRSuppl2020;69(Suppl-1):77–83.DOI:

A few things you can do as a parent or role model of a teen is:

  • Drive the way you want your teen to drive: when you are behind the wheel, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your teen to do. If they catch you doing something wrong – admit to your mistakes. It shows your teen driver that it is never too late to start driving safely and serves as a good learning moment

  • Limit your teen to zero or one passenger for at least the first six months that they have a license

  • Don’t allow activities that take your teen’s attention away from driving, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, or playing with the radio

  • Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts your rules in writing to clearly set expectations and limits; here is one example to get you started: P-T Agreement

For more information and helpful resources on teen driving check out the teen section of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.


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