It's no surprise that America's adults are busy communicators.
We're tethered to our jobs even when we're not at work. We're making sure our kids and grandkids are where they're supposed to be. We're trying to manage our households, keep up with our friends, arrange our schedules.
Texting and talking on a cell phone make all of this possible. But when driving, distracting behaviors also kill nearly 6,000 people a year.
So the recent Pew Research Center report showing that adults are "just as likely as teens to have texted while driving and are substantially more likely to have talked on the phone while driving" ought to open a few eyes.
"Adults may be the ones sounding the alarm on the dangers of distracted driving," says Mary Madden, co-author of the report, "but they don't always set the best example themselves,"
Pew's Internet & American Life Project survey indicates that 58% of adults send or read text messages, and close to half (47%) of those people say they do so while they drive. That means that 28% of US adults admit to texting behind the wheel.
Yet, 26% of US drivers aged 16 or 17 report texting while driving. Sure, that's only an overall difference of 2%, but we're supposed to know better.
"Fully 61% of adults say they have talked on their cell phones while they were behind the wheel. That is considerably greater than the number of 16- and 17-year-olds (43%) who have talked on their cells while driving."
Now, in my campaign to end distracted driving, I have often worried publicly that the visual, manual, and cognitive distractions of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving are more dangerous for inexperienced drivers. And the Pew report doesn't change that.
But the idea that adults are engaging in this risky behavior in greater numbers than teens is downright disturbing.
We know from University of Utah research that drivers talking on a cell phone take 20% longer to hit the brakes when needed. We know that distraction increases the likelihood of a driver deviating from his or her lane. We know that it can lead to sudden changes in speed.
And we know that it can cause what we call "cognitive blindness," an inability to see what is right in front of the driver--a red light, a stop sign, or a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
So I want to thank the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project for opening our eyes to the pervasiveness of this deadly epidemic among America's 16 and 17 year olds and among our adults.
We all need to get the message: Whether you're 17, 27, or 57, you can't text or talk on a cell phone and drive safely. You just cannot.