A new U.S. study released by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) has revealed that the pressure of an ‘always-on’ lifestyle has manifested in potentially deadly consequences behind the wheel.

The new study finds that nearly half (48 percent) of teens report texting more when alone in the car – most often to update their parents. Just as concerning, 56 percent of teens have fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel – revealing the potential risky implications a ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FoMo) lifestyle may have on today’s young drivers.

From texting to apps and social media, today’s teens are faced with innumerable disruptions behind the wheel.

According to the survey, teens feel parents – more than anyone else – expect immediate replies to their text messages, even while driving. Fifty-five percent of teens report texting while driving in order to update their parents, and nearly one in five (19 percent) believe that their parents expect a text response within one minute, and 25 percent within five minutes – even while driving.

However, the survey reveals a disconnect, as 58 percent of parents say they do not have set expectations on teens’ response time – showing a need for more open conversations about driving among parents and teens.

Connecting with parents isn’t the only distraction for young drivers. The survey also uncovers one-third (37 percent) of teens report texting to confirm or coordinate event details – another sign of their strong desire to stay connected. Additionally, one in three (34 percent) teens take their eyes off the road when app notifications come in while driving, and an alarming number (88 percent) of teens who consider themselves “safe” drivers report using phone apps on the road.

Most popular apps teens report using behind the wheel include:

  • Snapchat: 38 percent
  • Instagram: 20 percent
  • Twitter: 17 percent
  • Facebook: 12 percent
  • YouTube: 12 percent

“Today’s hyper-connected teens’ ‘fear of missing out’ can put young drivers at risk on the road as they may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” said Dr. William Horrey, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. “Teens may be at higher risk because they don’t always have the attentional capacity to deal with all the complexities on the road. These distractions in addition to fatigue may be even more significant with teens due to their relative driving inexperience as well. It’s so important for parents and teens to recognize and talk about these dangerous distractions to ensure better safety behind the wheel.”

Dangers Beyond Digital: “Always On” Lifestyle can Lead to Drowsy Driving  Technology behind the wheel isn’t the only peril stemming from teens’ ‘FoMO’. Teens’ reluctance to ‘miss out’ and an ‘always-on’ lifestyle are creating drowsy young drivers – and the new data shows parents are largely unaware of this danger. While 61 percent of parents believe their teens get enough sleep, 52 percent of teens get less than six hours of sleep each night during the week.

Even more, nearly three quarters (70 percent) of teens admit to driving while tired – making them less attentive and delaying reaction times. Among the parents who think their teens don’t rest enough, 51 percent attribute it to them staying up to read text messages and notifications – revealing signs of ‘FoMO’ infringing on sleep. With an estimated 100,000 crashes and 1,550 fatalities annually directly resulting from driver fatigue (NHTSA) – it’s critical that parents and teens alike receive a wake-up call on this dangerous threat.