Survey of Texas teens reveals distracted driving

by SOURCE Texas Department of Transportation

As April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the pressing concern over road safety, particularly among young drivers in Texas, takes center stage. In 2022 alone, nearly one in six crashes on Texas roadways were attributed to distracted driving. This alarming trend resulted in the loss of 487 lives and left 2,824 individuals with serious injuries, according to data compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation. As smartphones and other technologies become readily available, the temptation to engage in distracting activities while behind the wheel has only intensified, increasing the risks on Texas roads.

The gravity of distracted driving habits among young drivers in Texas is evident, as highlighted by a recent survey conducted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) program of Texas high school students from the 2022–2023 school year. Of the 6,029 Texas high school students surveyed within the last 30 days, 40 percent admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving; 32 percent confessed to texting while driving; and 20 percent mentioned using social media while driving.

To combat this issue, the YTS program is dedicated to saving lives and preventing injury among young individuals through education, empowerment and peer-led outreach. Their overarching goal is to ensure that America’s youth live long and healthy lives through safe practices in our transportation system. 

In pursuit of their vision, the YTS program developed the You in the Driver Seat (YDS) app, which is aimed at promoting safe, distraction-free driving among individuals aged 16–25. The app operates by tracking and scoring trips, utilizing location and user interaction data in the background to monitor driving behavior and phone usage. Each trip begins with a perfect driving score of 100 points, with deductions of 20 points for each infraction like distracted driving (e.g., a phone call, text message, social media use, etc.) or speeding. Users falling below 100 points receive a trip summary detailing their driving score, lost points and infraction locations. Only a driving score of 100, otherwise known as a “Safe Trip,” will earn points for the user. These points can earn rewards, including $10 gift cards to popular venues like Amazon, Starbucks and Target.

Since its launch in October 2020, the YDS app has made significant strides in combating distracted driving among young drivers. Through its implementation, the app has facilitated an estimated 324 days of distraction-free driving. With its user-friendly interface and innovative features, the app has garnered significant traction, boasting 244 active users in Texas as of Feb. 21. The 244 active users in Texas have collectively completed 21,412 scored trips.

Analysis of the data reveals that shorter driving trips have a higher frequency of Safe Trips compared to longer ones, hinting at potential challenges users face in maintaining focus during longer road trips. Findings also indicate that long-term users of the app exhibited a 31 percent higher Safe Trip percentage and scored an average Trip Score 14 percent higher than short-term users, indicating a positive shift toward responsible driving behaviors among frequent, long-term users.

Despite these promising findings, the YDS app also found that a staggering 67 percent of all driving trips by young Texas app users included a distraction on their cell phone and/or a speeding event.

“It’s no question that distracted driving is a clear issue in our state,” said Lisa Minjares-Kyle, TTI associate research scientist and director of the YTS program. “Our program works every day to find ways to incentivize responsible driving behaviors and change driving culture across Texas, and our app is one of the many ways we do that. The data tells us that there is still more work to be done but we’re making steps in the right direction.”

As young drivers navigate the roads, they struggle not only with inexperience but also with the presence of technology that can easily become a distraction. If young drivers can adopt a habit of driving responsibly from the beginning, it not only ensures their safety on the roads today, but also lays a foundation for a lifetime of responsible behavior behind the wheel. The journey towards eliminating distracted driving is ongoing, and the YDS app is not only enhancing road safety in Texas but also paving the way for a brighter, safer future on all roads nationwide.

It is important to note that TTI respects users’ privacy and protects any information gathered while the app is being used. TTI will not share, sell, rent or otherwise distribute collected information to any entity outside the Texas A&M System for any commercial purposes. This commitment to privacy ensures that users can engage with the YDS app with confidence, knowing that their data is safeguarded, and their privacy is respected.

For more information on the app and how it works, visit:

Betcha Bingo