A new study from UC San Diego’s Trauma Epidemiology and Injury Prevention Research Center and the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows that when a driver uses a handheld device for texting while driving their risk of having a serious crash increase as much as 16 times.

This is hardly news to the National Transportation Safety Board which released a report in December which showed that fatal crashes caused by distracted driving now outpaced the number of crashes caused by driving drunk. But the US study focused primarily on college aged drivers; those whom many consider to be the highest risk group for distracted driving.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is working with colleges around the state to help get a message through to college students that their behaviors behind the wheel might be the biggest impediment to their graduation.

Nearly 5,000 students from University of California San Diego, San Diego State University, University of San Diego, CSU San Marcos and eight smaller colleges in the region completed the study. The average age was 21 years old; 66 percent female; 83 percent were undergraduates; 17 percent graduates.

Distracted driving behaviors

78 percent reported driving while using a cell phone (talking or texting)
52 percent reported using hands-free devices at least some of the time
47 percent said they use hands-free at least 50 percent of the time
Only 25 percent used hands free with high frequency
50 percent said they send texts while driving on freeway
60 percent said they send texts while in stop-and-go traffic or in city streets
87 percent send texts while at traffic lights
Only 12 percent said they never text, not even at a traffic light