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Michael Brun, Published December 18 2013

AAA study: Young adults lead nation in cellphone use while driving

RED WING, Minn. – New drivers are taking heed of warnings about texting and cellphone use behind the wheel, but many adults still can’t seem to put down their devices while driving.

Adult drivers ages 25 to 39 lead the nation in cellphone use on the road, according to new research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. About 82 percent reported using a phone while driving last month, and 43 percent reported doing so fairly often or regularly.

The youngest drivers, ages 16 to 18, reported among the lowest regular phone use in the car at 20 percent. Only the 60-74 and 75-plus age groups reported lower regular use.

“It’s noteworthy that the young novice drivers are using their phones while driving less than older drivers since, given their inexperience, they are especially susceptible to distracted driving crashes,” according to a statement by Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Texting law

Text messaging and email use lag behind phone calls, but more than a quarter of drivers reported sending a text while driving last month, the report said.

Once again, drivers ages 25 to 39 lead the pack, with 45 percent admitting to texting and driving. The 19-24 age group reported texting most regularly at 11 percent.

Minnesota law allows drivers to talk on a phone while driving except for school bus drivers and people under 18 with provisional licenses or instruction permits. But it is illegal for all Minnesota drivers to “compose, read or send electronic messages or access the Internet” while a vehicle is moving or in traffic – including while stopped in traffic or at a stop light.

Safety threat

Distracted driving is a factor in nearly a quarter of all crashes in Minnesota, according to the state Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic Safety. As many as 70 people are killed and 350 seriously injured each year as a result.

But OTS says those numbers are likely much higher, as it can be difficult for law enforcement to determine distracted driving was a factor in a crash.

Although two-thirds of drivers admitted using a cellphone behind the wheel last month, 89 percent of motorists listed other drivers’ cellphone use as a serious threat to safety, according to AAA.

About 96 percent of drivers agreed that texting and driving poses a serious threat.

The survey polled 2,325 licensed drivers who reported driving in the past 30 days.

The results are part of AAA’s 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index.