June 7, 2013. Nearly half of the students surveyed at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., said their attitude towards texting while driving had changed following a four-month-long anti-texting-while-driving campaign spearheaded by AAA Carolinas’ Foundation for Traffic Safety and the South Carolina Public Safety Foundation.
However, the survey – conducted in January and again in May – showed only incremental improvement in their behaviors concerning distracted driving. The percentage of students surveyed who said they never text and drive grew just slightly, from 59% to 61%.
“The results show the difficulty of modifying teenager behavior, even after they become aware of risk,” said Tom Crosby, president of the AAA Carolinas’ Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Texting while driving among teens is like watching cancer slowly spread in someone you love but you don’t know how to stop or cure it.”
The four-month-long effort involved educational events at the school, including graphic videos, a texting-while-driving cone course, brake reaction test, essay contest, texting simulators and a speech by Pressley Melton, a victim of texting while driving, and her father, Bruce.
“The focus at the school combined education, application and reflection,” said Jim Childers, assistant principal of Spring Valley High School. “As a result of the generous contribution and help from AAA Carolinas and the SC Public Safety Foundation, students were exposed to a number of different things to educate them about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Childers. “It really made a difference for most of our students.”
Asked what influenced their attitude change most, 38% of students surveyed cited the Meltons’ presentation describing a 2006 crash.
Then-15-year-old Presley was a passenger in a car when her friend and driver was possibly distracted by her cell phone.
“I can’t remember,” Presley told more than 900 junior and senior students. “Maybe I don’t want to remember.”
The driver, 17-year-old Lindsay Craven, did not survive the crash. Presley, of Rock Hill, S.C., initially had a 2% chance of survival with every bone in her face shattered; it is now held together with 20 metal plates.
“It really opened my eyes to what could happen if you do text and drive,” said one student in the survey.
Another 30% of the respondents noting attitude change cited graphic videos and statistics on deaths and injuries caused by texting while driving. Here are the results from the survey, comparing January and May (also see attached chart):
- Students who felt they were a safe driver while texting decreased from 16% to 10%.
- Both surveys showed that 94% of students said they’re safer texting while driving than their friends who text and drive.
- The percentage of students who said they have friends who text and drive while the student is a passenger grew from 52% to 55%.
- Student passengers who say they comment to the driver about texting while driving increased from 66% to 72%.
- In describing various tasks students do while driving, 49% said they text and drive in January, which dropped to 38% in May.
- The May survey revealed that the most frequent tasks done while driving were eating and drinking (69%), talking on the phone (57%) and using GPS (48%).
National studies show that roughly half of teenagers admit to texting while driving. A recent study from Cohen Children’s Medical Center showed that texting while driving is now the leading cause of death of teen drivers, causing more deaths and injuries for 15- to 18-year-olds than drinking and driving.
Memorial Day launched the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers, with seven of the 10 most deadly days of the year occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to a study by the national AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Connect with AAA Carolinas on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AAAcarolinas and follow us on Twitter at @AAAcarolinas.