Report: Almost 80 Percent of Teens Do Not Believe Using Apps Behind the Wheel is Distracting

Most teens know texting and driving is dangerous. For many teens, though, this fails to translate to other dangers their phones might pose. A new study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), found that only about a quarter of teens text while driving. However, an astounding 68 percent admit to using apps behind the wheel.

How dangerous is using apps while driving?

Teen drivers do not know life without a GPS in the car, and many cannot remember life before an iPod or other digital music player, either. For this reason, many consider apps that provide navigation or music on their phone as a “utility,” and use them despite being aware of the dangers.

According to the survey, about 58 percent of teens use a navigation app, although more than 40 percent said they could be a distraction. Forty-six percent of teen drivers surveyed use music apps; almost 65 percent say these apps can be distracting.

And drivers are not just using music and navigation apps. A recent study by TrueMotion found the most popular apps while driving include Pokémon Go, Android Messaging, and even Netflix.

The problem with all of these apps is how teens interact with them while driving. Many teens believe that entering an address, searching for a song, looking ahead at the navigation directions, or skipping songs are not as distracting as reading or typing a test. However, texting and using apps behind the wheel can both be deadly.

What does the law say about using apps while driving?

Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have texting and driving laws that make it illegal to use apps while driving.

In New Jersey, it is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving except in an emergency.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to do anything that requires more than one tap on the screen or pressing one button. PA also recently passed a law that allows for stricter sentencing when a texting and driving accident leads to serious injury or death.

How can I keep my teen safe on the road?

Navigation and music apps can, of course, serve as utilities while driving, although teens must limit their interactions with the apps while driving in order to avoid distractions. To help them use these apps responsibly, teach your teens to:

  • Enter the address in their navigation app before starting the car
  • Pull into a parking lot or other safe place to check directions if necessary
  • Stow their phone while driving
  • Silence notifications while driving, to reduce the temptation to look
  • Prepare a playlist before hitting the road
  • Use apps in your favor. Download an app that locks your teen’s phone when the car is in motion.
  • Set consequences. Let your teens know that using apps behind the wheel will bring consequences.

For more ways to keep yourself and your teen safe behind the wheel, check out our blog.