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State laws can influence teen cellphone use while driving: study

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Columbus, OH — Teens living in states that ban cell phone use while driving may be less likely to use their electronic devices when behind the wheel, according to a study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Researchers looked at data from 2013-2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which included responses from more than 65,000 high school students old enough to obtain an intermediate driver’s license and who reported driving in the 30 days prior to the survey. They found that around 53% of respondents used their cellphones while driving at least once during that time.

However, in states that prohibit handheld calls while behind the wheel and ban all types of cellphone use for young drivers, the students were 19% less likely than those with no such bans to engage in this dangerous activity. Further, teens in states that banned both actions were 23% less likely to use their cellphones while driving than teens in states that only banned cellphone use for young drivers.

“Talking on a cellphone while driving is a common but risky behavior among teen drivers,” Motao Zhu, lead study author and CIRP principal investigator, said in a press release. “We encourage states to consider implementing both types of bans to normalize distraction-free driving and promote a safer driving culture for everyone on the road.”

The researchers remind parents and guardians to serve as role models for their teens, and not to use their cellphones while driving.

The study was published online Dec. 3 in the journal Injury Epidemiology.

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