[ny times] If you think it is teenagers who are primarily guilty of sending text messages while driving, think again.
According to a new poll from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, adults are more likely to have performed this behind-the-wheel juggling act, as well as talking on cellphones from the driver’s seat.
The poll, released last Friday, contrasted its adult results from earlier this year with a 2009 survey of teenagers. Both were conducted for Pew by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
In the 2009 poll, 34 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds who used their phones for sending text messages said they had done so while driving. In the 2010 poll, 47 percent of adults admitted to it.
Adults also lead when it comes to talking on cellphones while driving. According to the latest Pew poll, 75 percent of cellphone-owning adults say they have talked on the phone while driving, compared with just over half (52 percent) of 16- and 17-year-olds in the earlier survey.
And 44 percent of adults and 40 percent of teenagers in the two polls say they have been passengers in vehicles whose drivers used their cellphones “in a dangerous way” or in a way that “put themselves or others in danger.”
One in six adults who own cellphones (17 percent) go further and say they have actually bumped into either a person or an object because they were distracted by their cellphones.
Among the latter group is Matt Howard, chief executive of ZoomSafer, which makes software that can put cellphones into a no-texting mode when, through a variety of means (including Bluetooth pairing and GPS-detected speed above 10 miles per hour), the software determines that owners have gotten behind the wheel of a car.
Mr. Howard said he was moved to start the company after he hit a 9-year-old boy, a neighbor, with his car while driving distracted in northern Virginia two years ago.
“I was addicted to my mobile device,” he admitted. “I decided there was an opportunity to help other people and to help myself.”
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures from 2008 show 5,870 fatalities and 515,000 injuries in police-reported crashes that had driver distraction as a factor.
Studies have concluded that drivers using their phones while driving are four times more likely to cause an accident than those not engaged.
The Pew study said that 82 percent of American adults 18 or older own cellphones (up from 65 percent in 2004). Among those adults, 58 percent of them use text messaging. The 2009 poll said that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own phones and 66 percent send text messages.
Sending text messages while driving is prohibited in 28 states, the Pew report said, and seven (plus the District of Columbia) prohibit all hand-held cellphone use on the road.
Study Finds Adult Drivers Are the Worst Text Messaging Offenders