Texting and driving is a common behavior among teenagers, and South Dakota is one of the states that sees the highest number of teen drivers texting. Texting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous distracted driving behaviors because it commands a motorist’s cognitive, manual and visual attention.

How often are today’s teenagers texting and driving, and why is the issue so prolific across South Dakota?

A widespread behavior

According to Reuters, about 38% of teenage drivers nationwide admit to texting while behind the wheel. The percentage of teenagers who text while driving is also higher in South Dakota and other states that allow teens to drive before the age of 16, even though many of them have laws banning the act.

In South Dakota, more than 50% of all teenage drivers admit to texting while at a vehicle’s controls. Research also shows that the younger a teenager is when he or she starts driving, the more likely that teen is to text and drive. Texting and driving rates among teenagers double between ages 15 and 16 and often continue to rise thereafter.

Studies also show that some teenagers are more likely to engage in texting behind the wheel than others. Caucasian teens are more frequent offenders than minorities, while teens who consistently wear seat belts are less likely to offend in this manner.

A dangerous decision

New drivers do not have the muscle memory and reflexes of more experienced motorists. Teens are not likely to be able to respond in a sudden traffic situation if they do not have adequate time to acknowledge the situation, process the situation and determine what reaction to take. Because texting diverts a teen driver’s attention, it is even more difficult for him or her to respond to sudden changes in traffic flow or patterns.

Texting also makes it harder for teen drivers to maintain consistent speeds and directions, which may also enhance crash risks.