Teen Driving Study Reveals “App and Drive” is New Danger Among Teens, New Worry for Parents

Posted in: Press Releases

Topics: Behavioral Issues, Culture + Society

BOSTON, August 1, 2016 – Teens have been inundated with messages about the dangers of texting while driving over the past several years—and while this message is still vitally important, texting is not the only danger popping up on their smartphone.  According to new research conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), while 27 percent of teens today still report texting and driving, a bigger concern is that two out of three teens (68 percent) admit to using apps while driving.  In fact, when asked to rank the driving behaviors they perceived to be most dangerous, looking at or posting to social media apps ranked much lower as compared to texting and driving or driving under the influence of alcohol, for example.

To complement the more traditional, quantitative research, the study also incorporated implicit association testing (IAT), which has been used for the past 20 years to measure unconscious bias.  This method provided teens with a range of different visual driving scenarios such as texting, using various apps and receiving phone calls along with a set of key words.  The speed with which teens associated these scenarios with words such as “distracting,” “safe,” and “fun,” among others, was then used to reveal their more automatic, gut-level reactions and feelings concerning distracted and dangerous driving behaviors.  The unconscious biases identified in the IAT, coupled with the findings teens reported in the survey, reveal gaps in what teens believe versus what they say and how they act.

In many cases, teens’ reported actions didn’t match with what they implicitly felt. In the explicit, self-reporting survey, almost all teens acknowledge app usage as a danger behind the wheel (95 percent). However, when presented with a visual of an app notification appearing on a smartphone during implicit association testing, it was revealed that approximately 80 percent of teens fundamentally view app use while driving as “not distracting.”

“This research identifies teens’ underlying beliefs about key driving habits, providing insight into what teens really believe,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital.  “Teens as a whole are saying all the right things, but implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel.”

The Dangers of “App and Drive”
Teens may consider navigation and music apps as “utilities,” diluting the perception of the dangers related to their use while driving.  While 41 percent explicitly state that using navigation apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, 58 percent report using them on the road.  More teens (64 percent) say that using music apps while driving is dangerous or distracting, but nearly half (46 percent) still admit to using them in the car. 

While navigation and music apps may seem harmless, how teens interact with them can be distracting.  Turning on music apps, changing a destination, actively checking directions and flipping through a playlist are all examples of potentially dangerous app usage behind the wheel.  Implicit association testing also indicates that teens believe checking a notification or opening an app is less dangerous and distracting than texting while driving.

“Phone use while driving is one of the most concerning behaviors by inexperienced teen drivers.  Any behavior that takes your eyes and focus off the road, even for mere seconds, can impair your ability to react to hazards and other vehicles,” said Dr. William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Research Institute for Safety.  “It’s not the apps themselves that are dangerous, but how we, and our teens, interact with them while behind the wheel.”

Conversations and Tips to Help Parents Worry Less
When it comes to changing teens’ behavior on the road, it’s essential for parents to realize the important role that they play.  Understanding teens’ unconscious bias can also help to change their habits and deep held beliefs on what is safe vs. dangerous behavior.  Keeping these conversations open and honest has the ability to encourage responsible driving among today’s teens.  Horrey and Beresin offer the following tips to help parents of teen drivers:

  • Hide the phone!  73 percent of teens admit to having their phones nearby while driving alone.  Ask teens to keep their phones out of reach and on silent so they’re less tempted to check incoming app notifications and more likely to keep their eyes on the road.
  • Map it out:  42 percent of teens say they text while driving to get directions or find out how to get somewhere.  Teach teens to program their navigation apps before getting behind the wheel or pull over to double check directions.
  • Set Expectations:  Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD encourage parents and teens to use the Teen Driving Contract as a conversation starter and discussion guide.  This tool covers important safety issues and is an easy roadmap for parents and teens alike to uphold family driving rules.

For more information, visit www.libertymutual.com/teendriving.

About the Study
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD commissioned Olson Zaltman to conduct implicit association testing with teens, and commissioned ORC International to conduct a quantitative survey that measured teen driving attitudes and behaviors.  The implicit association testing (IAT) part of the Teen Driving Study was conducted February 10-29, 2016, among 2,650 teens, and the survey was conducted April 4-28, 2016, among 2,500 teens from high schools across the country.  Overall the findings from the Teen Driving Study can be interpreted at a 95 percent confidence interval, with an error margin of +/- 1 percent (IAT) and +/-1.9 percent (survey).  Error margins for subsets such as licensed drivers will be wider.  Additionally, the study included a survey of 1,000 parents of teenage drivers in high school that has an overall error margin of +/- 3.1 percent.

About Liberty Mutual Insurance
Liberty Mutual Insurance helps people preserve and protect what they earn, build, own and cherish.  Keeping this promise means we are there when our policyholders throughout the world need us most.

In business since 1912, and headquartered in Boston, Mass., today Liberty Mutual is a diversified insurer with operations in 30 countries and economies around the world.  The company is the fifth largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S. based on 2015 direct written premium data as reported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  Liberty Mutual is ranked 73 on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations in the U.S. based on 2015 revenue.  The company employs over 50,000 people in over 800 offices throughout the world.

The fifth-largest auto and home insurer in the U.S., Liberty Mutual (libertymutual.com) sells full lines of coverage for automobile, homeowners, valuable possessions, personal liability, and individual life insurance.  The company is an industry leader in affinity partnerships, offering car and home insurance to employees and members of more than 14,000 companies, credit unions, professional associations and alumni groups.

About SADD
SADD, the nation’s leading peer-to-peer youth education, prevention, and activism organization, is committed to empowering young people to lead initiatives in their schools and communities.  Founded in 1981, SADD today has thousands of chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges.  SADD highlights prevention of many destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving, and teen violence and suicide.  To become a Friend of SADD or for more information, visit sadd.orgparentteenmatters.org or follow SADD on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Media Contacts:
Glenn Greenberg
Liberty Mutual Insurance

Melinda Bonner
360 Public Relations

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