Many of the campaigns to stop texting and driving have been aimed at hyper-connected teens, but a new survey from AT&T shows adults are more likely to be driving distracted.
Nearly half of adults surveyed, 49 percent, said they text and drive — even though nearly all of them say they know the habit is dangerous. Ninety-eight percent of adult drivers surveyed said they know that distracted driving isn't safe. But the trend actually appears to be on the rise, AT&T said, as six out of 10 drivers said they never texted behind the wheel just three years ago.
The top reasons that adults gave for their behavior were that sending a text while driving has become second nature, they feel it makes them more productive and it helps them feel connected.
While the survey showed adults were more likely to engage in the bad habit, 43 percent of teens also said they were sending messages while behind the wheel.
The survey on teens provided a bit more data on why young people choose to text and drive. One reason is that most text-message users, the survey said, expect a reply within five minutes or less — 48 percent of teens said they expect a response right away once they fire off a text message.
Parents' behavior, teens said, has a big influence on their own actions. AT&T found that not having a parental rule against texting and driving is among the greatest predictors that a teen will send messages while driving. Other factors included whether a teen had a full- or part-time job, owned a smartphone or usually sent over 100 text messages per day.
AT&T used the results to talk about its "Texting and Driving . . . It Can Wait" campaign, which encourages drivers to take a pledge not to use text messaging behind the wheel.
When it comes to deterring the practice, AT&T found that the threat of a suspended license appears to be the most effective deterrent, followed by the possibility of a $500 ticket.
Many states have tried to take on the problem of texting and driving. Texting-while-driving legislation in Virginia, for example, would make it a primary offense — meaning that law enforcement officials could pull people over just for sending messages from behind the wheel, rather than adding it on to another traffic offense.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed an amendment to that legislation, saying that he supported that change but suggesting that fines for distracted driving be comparable to those for drunken and reckless driving.