SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Almost 80 percent of college students in San Diego County admit to using a cell phone while driving, and about half send or receive text messages, according to a UC San Diego study released Tuesday.
UC San Diego's Trauma Epidemiology and Injury Prevention Research Center gathered the data from about 5,000 students at the area's four universities and eight colleges.
"Distracted driving is a highly prevalent behavior in college students who have misplaced confidence in their own driving skills and their ability to multitask," said Dr. Linda Hill, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Despite the known dangers, distracted driving has become an accepted behavior."
Among the results of the study:
-- 78 percent reported driving while talking or texting on a cell phone;
-- 52 percent reported using hands-free devices at least some of the time;
-- 47 percent said they use hands-free devices at least half of the time;
-- 25 percent frequently use hands-free devices;
-- 50 percent said they send texts while driving on freeway;
-- 60 percent said they send texts while in stop-and-go traffic or on city streets;
-- 87 percent send texts while at traffic signals; and
-- 12 percent said they never text while driving, not even at a traffic light.
"This study highlights the high prevalence of distracted driving in college students, including texting while driving, something we see first-hand each and every day," said Robert Clark, the CHP's assistant chief for the Border Division. "The demonstration of misplaced confidence in their own and others' ability to multitask may lead to opportunities for us to educate and employ some risk abatement strategies."
Talking on a cell phone while driving increases the risk of crashes four-fold, with no difference in safety between phones and hands-free devices, according to the researchers. Texting increases the risk of a wreck eight to 16 times, they said.