More Teens Wearing Seatbelts, But Texting While Driving Common

A teen girl adjusts her rearview mirror before driving.
(Image credit: Teen driver photo via Shutterstock)

High school students have improved some of their risky driving behaviors over the last decade, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1991 and 2011, the percentage of high school students who said they never or rarely wore a seatbelt declined from 26 percent to 8 percent; and the percentage who said they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol declined from 40 percent to 24 percent.

In addition, the percentage who said they had driven a car while under the influence of alcohol in the last month declined from 17 percent to 8 percent between 1997 and 2011.

However, the rise of cell phone use over the last decade has brought new risks to teen driving. In 2011, one in three high school students said they had sent a text or email while driving a car. Last year was the first time the survey asked students about texting while driving.

“We are encouraged that more of today's high school students are choosing healthier, safer behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, and are avoiding behaviors that we know can cause them harm, such as binge drinking or riding with impaired drivers," said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health.

However, the findings also show there is a continued need for government agencies and communities to work to address teens' risky behaviors, Wechsler said.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among youth.

The 2011 survey is based on responses from more than 15,000 U.S. high school students. The survey is conducted yearly among U.S. youth.

Pass it on: In some ways, teen are behaving more safely in cars. But they're still texting.

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Live Science Staff
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