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Gliklich J, Maurer R, Bergmark RW. Patterns of Texting and Driving in a US National Survey of Millennial Parents vs Older Parents. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(7):689–690. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0830
The national US motor vehicle fatality rate has recently increased, with distracted driving being a potential underlying cause.1 Texting and driving is prevalent, associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes,2 and more common among younger drivers.3 Millennials (born 1981-1996),4 known for their significant cell phone and technology use, are becoming parents. Little is known about parent driving behavior associated with crash risk and the influence of such behavior on children’s subsequent driving habits.5 The aim of this study was to characterize the texting and driving patterns of millennial vs older parents.
This cross-sectional national survey included questions regarding demographic data, driving safety and cell phone use with children in the car, whether the parent had been asked by a pediatrician about texting and driving, and the Distracted Driving Survey (DDS). The DDS is a validated survey instrument with questions on the frequency of text message reading and writing; use of email, social media, and maps while driving; and the highest speeds at which the respondent has performed those activities in the previous 30 days.2,6 Higher DDS scores reflect more reckless behavior. Survey invitations were distributed to a national panel of respondents across the 4 main regions of the United States (Midwest, Northeast, South, and West) in a census representative fashion using SurveyGizmo software in partnership with Cint (Cint USA). Parents with a car, with at least 1 child younger than 14 years, and who had driven their child in the previous 30 days were included. The specific ages and number of children were not solicited. Millennial drivers, defined as those aged 22 to 37 years, were then compared with drivers older than 37 years. This study was approved by the institutional review board of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston. All participants provided informed consent. All analyses were completed with SAS software, version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc). Numerical variables were compared using either an unpaired t test or Wilcoxon rank sum test, and categorical variables were compared using χ2 test or Fisher exact test, with P < .05 indicating significance.
The survey population included 435 parents (218 women [50.1%]), consisting of 225 millennial parents (mean [SD] age, 33.0 [3.0] years) and 210 older parents (mean [SD] age, 44.1 [5.7] years) from 45 states (Table 1). Four participants (0.9%) answered the survey incompletely; missing responses were excluded (Table 2). Most parents had read (294 [67.6%]) and written (236 [54.3%]) texts while driving in the past 30 days. The DDS score was significantly associated with crash rate; respondents reporting no crashes (n = 374) had a median DDS score of 6 (interquartile range, 2-12), whereas respondents reporting at least one crash (n = 57) had a median DDS score of 20 (interquaritle range, 9-34; P < .001). The DDS score was significantly higher for millennial (median DDS, 8 [interquartile range, 3-17]) than for older parents (median DDS, 6 [interquartile range, 2-12]; P = .005). Millennial parents read text messages while driving more frequently than did older parents (most or some of the time, 95 of 225 [42.2%] vs 56 of 210 [26.7%]; χ2 test, P = .006), whereas no difference was seen for writing texts (most or some of the time, 44 of 225 [19.5%] vs 29 of 210 [13.8%]; P = .22). Crash rates in the prior 12 months did not differ significantly by age group (36 of 223 [16.1%] for millennial parents and 21 of 208 [10.1%] for older parents; P = .06). Regardless of age, 254 parents (58.4%) said they are safer drivers and 292 (67.1%) said they use their cell phone less when their children are in the car. Of 388 parents who had taken their child to the pediatrician in the past year, only 87 (22.4%) had been asked about texting and driving behavior. Only 55 of 224 millennial parents (24.6%) and 36 of 208 older parents (17.3%) used an app or cell phone feature aimed at reducing texting and driving, a difference by parental age grouping that was not statistically significant (P = .18).
This study should be interpreted in the context of its limitations; like other survey studies, there is potential for recall bias and possible selection bias for more technology-savvy parents, given that the survey was administered online. Millennial parents had higher DDS scores than older parents, demonstrating riskier behavior that is associated with the motor vehicle crash rate. However, texting while driving was common among millennial and older parents. A low proportion of parents said their pediatrician had spoken to them about distracted driving, and few parents used an app to restrict texting while driving; both are areas for potential intervention.
Accepted for Publication: December 14, 2018.
Corresponding Author: Regan W. Bergmark, MD, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 45 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115 (email@example.com).
Published Online: May 13, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0830
Author Contributions: Dr Bergmark had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: Gliklich, Bergmark.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
Drafting of the manuscript: All authors.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: All authors.
Obtained funding: Gliklich.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Gliklich.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bergmark reported receiving a grant from the American Board of Medical Specialties and salary and research support from Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Surgery outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: This study was supported by award UL 1TR002541 from Harvard Catalyst and the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and by financial contributions from Harvard University and its affiliated academic health care centers.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The sponsors had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University and its affiliated academic health care centers, or the NIH.