Survey Says: Teens' Driving Habits are Risky

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By David Goguen on July 10, 2009 10:46 AM

The most inexperienced drivers on the road may also be engaging in some of the most dangerous behavior, according to a new survey that examined the habits of teenagers when they get behind the wheel.

61 percent of teens admitted to risky driving habits like chronic speeding, driving under the influence, and typing and reading text messages while driving, in a survey of over 1,000 drivers age 16 and 17, conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Seventeen magazine.

Here are some highlights from the survey, as reported in a News Release from the AAA:

  • 46 percent of teens send and read text messages while driving.
  • 51 percent talk on cell phones while driving.
  • 40 percent exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more.
  • 11 percent drive after using alcohol or drugs.

State Laws on Teen Drivers. In many states, teenagers who have been issued a driver's license can't hit the road without seeing special restrictions placed on their driving privileges.

These legal limitations can directly impact the right to drive itself, through "graduated" driver licensing systems that phase in new drivers -- limiting their driving privileges early on, and then gradually expanding those privileges as the drivers' experience grows. See a State-by-State Breakdown of Licensing Systems for Young Drivers, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A number of states also limit what teenage drivers can do behind the wheel when it comes to phones and handheld devices. For example, in California, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel, even on hands-free devices (older drivers are allowed to talk on hands-free phones in California). See a State-by-State Listing of Laws on Cell Phone Use While Driving, from the IIHS.