By Larry Copeland
The high-profile campaign against distracted driving, especially among young motorists, has seeped deeply into the national culture: April is Distracted Driving Month, and tonight's season premiere of the Fox teen hit TV show Glee features a distracted driving crash cliffhanger from last season.
Despite all that focus, a new survey from insurer State Farm indicates that many teens might still be ignoring the message.
The survey, conducted for State Farm by Harris Interactive, finds that just 43% of drivers ages 16 and 17 say they've never texted while driving -- the same percentage as in the insurer's first survey in 2010.
Yet 76% of teens age 14-17 agree that "if you regularly text and drive, someday you will be killed while driving," and 93% agree that "if you regularly text and drive, someday you will get into an accident."
The State Farm survey comes as Glee is expected to resolve a cliffhanger from last season. Drama queen Quinn Fabray, played by Dianna Agron, was rushing to her ex-boyfriend's wedding and texting while driving when her vehicle was sideswiped by a truck. The screen went black, leaving viewers wondering about her fate.
Harris Interactive surveyed 652 teens 14-17 in February to examine their attitudes and behaviors around driving.
The message apparently isn't sinking in for some. "Unfortunately, it has not in terms of the teens who say they're texting while driving," says Chris Mullen, State Farm's director of technology research.
The survey shows some progress: Fewer teen drivers say they "very often" text while driving, and more say they do it "rarely" than in the 2010 survey.
Cheyenne Schorlig, 17, a junior at Eureka High School in Eureka, Calif., who has had her license about 10 months, says she never texts while driving.
"I've been in a couple of accidents where the driver was texting while driving," she says.
Jaylea Salk, 18, a senior at Eureka, says that among her peers who still text and drive, "a lot of it probably is the social media aspect with Facebook and Twitter. People want that connection, and they want to be able to talk with their friends. They don't think, 'If I just wait 10 minutes, I can do it safely.' They want that instant gratification with everything."
The survey emphasizes the vital role of parents in fighting teen texting and driving. Among the teens who text, 67% talk often with their parents about driving; that rises to 82% among teens who never text while driving.
"What it tells me is that parents do have an extreme influence and a role to play in teaching their teens how to drive," Mullen says.