Survey says 80 percent of students admit to texting while driving

A survey by AT&T revealed 7 out of 10 people admit to using their smartphones while driving. Sixty-one percent say they send text messages while driving, 22 percent check emails, 17 percent snap selfies and 14 percent roam social media. AT&T conducted the survey to encourage people to put down their phones while they drive.

At the University of Oregon, the data is fairly similar. Twenty-five students were asked what they used their phones for when operating a motor vehicle. The survey revealed that 80 percent use their smartphones to text or make a phone call. Thirty-six percent check social media, 22 percent take photographs and 15 percent check emails.

“I mainly use my phone to switch through music playlists,” UO student Lindsay Gilmour said.

She admits she texts sometimes and tries to refrain from answering phone calls that require long conversations.

“I definitely don’t check Snapchat or Instagram or anything ’cause that’s too much multitasking while driving,” she said.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration designated April as national “Distracted Driving Awareness” month.

Last year, the Eugene Police Department issued 907 citations for driver use of cellphone, which is a slight drop from the previous year with 954 citations issued. On just one day last month, 42 cellphone citations were given.

The NHTSA said 10 percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes and 244 Americans in this age group were killed in distraction-related crashes.

Emily Bol, UO graduating senior, said she received a citation for talking on her phone while driving last month. She was on her way home from the Valley River Center and wanted to give her mom a quick phone call before dinner.

“All of a sudden a cop was pulling me over,” Bol said.

He asked her why she didn’t get off the phone once she saw him. Bol is from Colorado and had no idea there were laws regarding cellphone use while driving in Oregon. In Colorado, it’s only against the law if you are under the age of 18.

“He gave me a $250 citation,” she said.

Bol was able to lower it slightly because of her clean driving record, but admits she was extremely frustrated, especially because she’s been in Oregon for four years and never knew there was a law.

Oregon law bans the use of “mobile communication devices” for all drivers except police and emergency responders. This is defined as a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device that receives voice or text communication. There are some common options that are permissible such as speakerphone, the use of a Bluetooth wireless device or installing a car kit.

After the first of last year, Senate Bill 9 changed Oregon’s traffic offense for driving while using a cellphone from a Class D violation to a Class C. The minimum fee is $142 but it can be as high as $500.

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Ally Brayton

Ally Brayton