Texting/Emailing While Driving Among High School Students in 35 States, United States, 2015

J Adolesc Health. 2018 Dec;63(6):701-708. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.06.010. Epub 2018 Aug 20.


Purpose: Determine the prevalence and explore individual- and state-level factors associated with texting/emailing while driving (TWD) among adolescent drivers in the United States.

Methods: Data from 35 states that administered the 2015 state Youth Risk Behavior Survey were analyzed. We used Poisson regression models with robust error variance to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) for TWD.

Results: Among the 101,397 high school students aged ≥ 14 years who had driven a vehicle during the past 30 days, 38% reported TWD at least once. TWD prevalence ranged from 26% in Maryland to 64% in South Dakota. TWD prevalence was higher in states with a lower minimum learner's permit age and in states where a larger percentage of students drove. Multivariable analyses revealed that the likelihood of TWD increased substantially with age, and white students were more likely to engage in TWD than students of all other races/ethnicities. Infrequent seatbelt users were 21% more likely to engage in TWD compared with frequent seatbelt users (adjusted PR = 1.21, 95% confidence interval: 1.16-1.26), and students who reported drinking and driving were almost twice as likely to TWD as compared to students who did not (adjusted PR = 1.91, 95% confidence interval: 1.79-2.04).

Conclusions: Prevalence of TWD among US high school students varied by more than two-fold across states. TWD prevalence was higher in states with lower minimum learner's permit ages and in states where a larger percentage of students drove. Older age, white race/ethnicity, and other risky driving behaviors were associated with TWD.

Keywords: Adolescent; Cellphone use; Distracted driving; Minimum learner's permit age; Teen driving; Texting while driving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Age Factors
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Mail / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Text Messaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States