Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of injury and death in adolescents worldwide. Within the US, crashes rates are three times higher among young drivers compared to adults. Research has focused on distracted driving behaviours among young drivers, particularly texting while driving, as a key factor in young driver crash risk. In the US, mounting public concern resulted in a number of states implementing costly education campaigns and prohibitive legislation to ban texting while driving, that have had minimal success in reducing crashes. We sought to examine the relationship between crashes and risky driving behaviours (including texting while driving), among young drivers across the United States. We conducted an online survey with 384 young licensed drivers from across the United States (aged 18–24 years, 43% were male). The survey included items about history of crashes and citations, and risky driving behaviours such as ignoring speed limits, running red lights, and cell phone use while driving. We conducted an exploratory factor analysis using a principal axis extraction and calculated the correlation coefficients between the risky driving items, prior crashes and citations. In this nation-wide sample of young drivers, 56% reported being involved in at least one crash in the past, with 87% involved in a crash within the past 12 months. In addition, 69% reported receiving at least one citation for a driving violation. Texting while driving and taking a call while driving correlated with prior citations and crashes (all p<0.03), and loaded highly with other intentional violations on a factor of risky driving. These findings suggest a pattern of risk among young drivers, of which texting while driving is only one manifestation. This has implications for considering interventions that attempt to ban isolated risk behaviours, rather than promote safe driving behaviour more broadly.
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