Research points to ‘app and drive’ as problem among teens

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STATE HOUSE — A day after legislation aimed at reducing distracted driving died on Beacon Hill, new survey results were released indicating 68 percent of teenagers in the United States admit to using apps while driving.

The survey, conducted by Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Driving, found that 27 percent of teens report that they text while driving, but 80 percent considered the use of apps on their electronic devices as “not distracting.”

Researchers used a blend of traditional polling and implicit association testing, which they say revealed “more automatic, gut-level reactions and feelings concerning distracted and dangerous driving behaviors.”

“This research identifies teens’ underlying beliefs about key driving habits, providing insight into what teens really believe,” Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement. “Teens as a whole are saying all the right things, but implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel.”

The research showed that 41 percent of respondents said using navigation apps while driving is dangerous, but 58 percent reported using them on the road. Nearly 46 percent reporting using music apps while driving.

The Massachusetts Senate this session passed legislation banning drivers from using handheld devices while behind the wheel. After a similar measure received initial approval in the House, the bill stalled.

State law in Massachusetts bans texting while driving and drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any mobile electronic device while driving. Critics of that law say its reach is too limited and that additional safeguards are needed as a protection against distracted drivers.

Olson Zaltman in February conducted the implicit association testing among 2,650 teens and ORC International in April included 2,500 high school teens in its survey measuring teen driving attitudes and behaviors.

— Written by Michael P. Norton

Copyright State House News Service