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Study: More adults use phones while driving
Local results buck this trend
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Below are the results of AAA’s study of phone use while driving. They are listed by age group, those who used a phone while driving and those who did so fairly often/regularly.
16-18, 58 percent, 20 percent
19-24, 72 percent, 27 percent
25-39, 82 percent, 43 percent
40-59, 72 percent, 30 percent
60-74, 51 percent, 15 percent
75+, 31 percent, 7 percent
Total, 67 percent, 28 percent

Below are the results of AAA’s study of those who sent an email or text while driving. They are listed by age group, those who reported sending an email or text while driving while driving, and those who reported doing so fairly often/regularly.
16-18, 31 percent, 7 percent
19-24, 42 percent, 11 percent
25-39, 45 percent, 10 percent
40-59, 24 percent, 4 percent
60-74, 7 percent, 2 percent
75+, 1 percent, 1 percent
Total, 26 percent, 6 percent

When Barton County Sheriff’s Office deputies come upon an accident that looks like it was caused by inattentive driving, the first thing they do is grab the cell phone.
“We check the last call time and more often than not, the last time was just before the crash,” said Sheriff Brian Bellendir. This is the age of texting or using a phone while driving.
It may sound counter intuitive, but a study released Wednesday by the American Automobile Association Foundation indicated High school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often than adults do. While the public often cites teens as being the most common offenders, a recent survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.
This doesn’t jive with Bellendir’s experience. “We find more often that it is the younger drivers. We’re running against the trend.”
Regardless of the age, phone use while behind the wheel is dangerous, the sheriff said. In fact, it is 26 times more dangerous than driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08, the legal limit in Kansas for those over 21.
“It’s noteworthy that the young novice drivers are using their phones while driving less than older drivers since, given their inexperience, they are especially susceptible to distracted driving crashes,” said AAA Executive Vice President Public Affairs, Jim Hanni. “At the same time, it is discouraging that cell phone usage picks up when drivers gain more experience, as using a phone can lead to dangerous distractions behind the wheel.”
Two out of three drivers reported using a cell phone while driving within the past month. Forty-three percent of adults ages 25-39 reported doing so fairly often or regularly while driving, compared to only 20 percent of teens. Motorists age 60 and up were the least likely to report using a phone.
“Using your phone while driving may seem safe, but it roughly quadruples your risk of being in a crash according to previous research,” continued Hanni. “None of us is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to hang up and drive.”
More than one-in-four motorists reported sending a text or email while driving within the past month. Adults ages 25-39 reported texting and driving most frequently, while those age 60 and up reported doing it the least. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every 10 fatal crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year, although experts agree the numbers are likely underestimated.
Previous research shows that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones – hands-free is not risk-free. Dialing a phone can be just and dangerous as texting because it requires the driver to look away from the road.
“Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents in Barton County,” Bellendir said.
The proliferation of cell phones has only exacerbated this problem. “This is something we wouldn’t have dreamed of not that many years ago,” the sheriff said.
 The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety collected the data as part of the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The data are from a sample of 2,325 licensed drivers, ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days.