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Cell phone use leads to other risky driving

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A new survey shows that more than 80 percent of teens said they use their smartphones while driving.

To compound that problem, a new report from State Farm says that American teens who choose to be distracted by their smartphones when they're behind the wheel are also more likely to participate in other dangerous driving behaviors, like speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to wear a seatbelt.  

This past July, State Farm conducted a survey of teen drivers ages 16-19 that explored distracted driving behaviors. A strong relationship was revealed between teens' willingness to use their smartphones while driving and participating in these other risky behaviors.

A clear relationship also emerged between admitted smartphone use behind the wheel and self-reported car crashes. Compared with those who have not been in a crash, those who have been in a crash were more than three times more likely to report watching videos and browsing the internet while driving and two to three times more likely to send and read texts, take pictures, record video, read and update social media, and play games on their cellphone while driving.

"Young drivers learn many of their driving behaviors from their parents," says Chris Mullen, director of Technology Research at State Farm. "In our survey, teens who indicated that their parents used cellphones while driving were more likely to report participating in many of these distracting activities. This tells us that parents have it in their power to help alleviate these dangerous activities by demonstrating safe driving themselves."

Other findings from the survey include:

  • The majority of teens understand that using their cellphone while driving is dangerous and they also know that it is illegal. When asked why they still participate in these behaviors, top reasons included wanting to stay in touch with family and friends, and "it is a habit."
  • Those teens who refrain from using their smartphone while driving report doing so for safety reasons and because it is illegal in their state.
  • Teen drivers' perceptions about their state laws impact their driving behavior.  Regardless of the actual law, teens were more likely to use their phones while driving if they thought it was legal to do so, and less likely if they thought it was illegal.
  • Those survey respondents who have their own car were significantly more likely to participate in distracting behaviors while driving than were those who share the family car.  

The full report with survey results can be downloaded from the State Farm Newsroom page.  


In July 2016, the State Farm Strategic Resources Department used an outside panel vendor to conduct an online survey of U.S. consumers ages 16-19. Survey responses were received from approximately 1,000 consumers who reported having a valid driver's license, driving at least 1 hour per week, and owning a smartphone.

A number of changes were made to the survey research in 2016 such that results in this report should not be compared with the results in the 2015 "Teens and Distracted Driving" report also produced by State Farm.

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