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State School Health Survey: Over Half of Teen Drivers
Talk or Text on Cell Phone while Driving

Poorer Academic Performance Linked to Risky Health Behaviors



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE         Connecticut Department of Public Health

June 7, 2012                                                    Contact: William Gerrish

                                                                        (860) 509-7270


                                                                        Connecticut State Department of Education

                                                                        Contact: Jim Polites

                                                                         (860) 713-6525



HartfordState health and education officials today released results of the state’s latest school health survey, which found that a high percentage of teen drivers talk on a cell phone while driving. Other teen driving safety concerns were also identified.  


More than half (53%) of teen drivers talked on a cell phone while driving at least once in the month before taking the survey, according to results of the youth behavior component of the 2011 Connecticut School Health Survey, administered to high school students across the state. About half (50.9%) of teen drivers admitted texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the month before taking the survey.


Besides using mobile devices while driving, many teens reported engaging in other risky driving behaviors. Almost 10% of high school students rarely or never wore a seat belt as a passenger. One out of four students reported recently being a passenger of someone who had been drinking alcohol, and about one out of every 10 high school seniors reported drinking alcohol and driving in the past month.


State health officials said that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among drivers ages 16–19 than among drivers of other ages. Per mile driven, drivers in this age group are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.


“The school health survey findings show that many of our young drivers engage in behaviors that put them at even greater risk when they get behind the wheel,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Parents, educators, and peers can use the survey findings to start conversations with young drivers about the potentially devastating consequences of dangerous driving activities and how to stay safe on the road. The findings also serve as an important reminder for adults to set a good example by driving safely and responsibly.”



Association between risky health behaviors and academic achievement

The survey results also show an association between health risk behaviors and academic achievement. Students who reported grades as being mostly Ds and Fs are:

  • more than three-times as likely to report their health status as fair or poor;
  • more than twice as likely to be current cigarette smokers;
  • more than twice as likely to have smoked marijuana recently;
  • more likely to have consumed alcohol recently; and
  • more likely to report having a sad or depressed mood.


Students with poor grades were also less likely to get adequate sleep, and less likely to report familial support.


“The survey consistently links health behaviors to academic performance. Often poor health affects students’ abilities to be successful in school. If we are to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students are fit, healthy and ready to learn, then we must attend to the health needs of all students,” said Connecticut State Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Charlene Russell-Tucker.


Russell-Tucker also noted that it is vital for schools, families and communities to partner and support students in making healthy and responsible choices. Since 2005, the survey has continuously found that family and social support were fundamental to protecting youth from engaging in risky behaviors.


Survey Background

The Connecticut School Health Survey is administered in two sections: the Youth Behavior Component (YBC) and the Youth Tobacco Component (YTC). The YTC is a comprehensive survey of tobacco use, access, cessation, knowledge and attitudes, and exposure among Connecticut students in Grades 6-12.


The YBC surveys high school students and monitors public health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. Nationally, the YBC is called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results from the national YRBS today. National and Connecticut results can be accessed at


In 2011, 4,299 middle and high school students completed the YTC and 2,058 youth completed the YBC. Both components met the CDC’s criteria to be considered representative of high school students in Connecticut (and middle school students for the YTC). To view more results from the Connecticut School Health Survey, please visit