published Friday, June 8th, 2012

More than half of teens say they text and drive

Dylan Young, 18, poses for The Associated Press as a vehicle cruises by in North Arlington, N.J. Young, a senior at North Arlington High, was in a fender-bender accident caused by being distracted while texting and driving. More than half of high school seniors say they text or email while driving, according to a jarring new study that offers the first federal statistics on how common the dangerous habit is in teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Thursday. They come from a 2011 survey of about 15,000 high school students across the country. The study found 58 percent of high school seniors said that, in the previous month, they had texted or emailed while driving.
Dylan Young, 18, poses for The Associated Press as a vehicle cruises by in North Arlington, N.J. Young, a senior at North Arlington High, was in a fender-bender accident caused by being distracted while texting and driving. More than half of high school seniors say they text or email while driving, according to a jarring new study that offers the first federal statistics on how common the dangerous habit is in teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Thursday. They come from a 2011 survey of about 15,000 high school students across the country. The study found 58 percent of high school seniors said that, in the previous month, they had texted or emailed while driving.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Poll
Do you text while driving?

ATLANTA -- Think your teen would never text while driving? More than half of high school seniors admitted in a government survey that they've done just that.

It's the first time the question was asked in a teen poll on risky behavior, and the finding comes amid a renewed federal crackdown on distracted driving.

Texting and cellphone use behind the wheel is "a national epidemic," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.

"We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a Washington news conference to announce pilot projects in Delaware and California to discourage distracted driving.

In the survey, about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Vicki Rimasse, a New Jersey woman whose son caused a fender bender earlier this year after texting in traffic. She made him take a safe-driving class after the mishap.

"I felt like an idiot," said her 18-year-old son, Dylan Young. The episode taught him "to be a lot more cautious," although he conceded that he sometimes still texts behind the wheel.

The findings released Thursday are the first federal statistics on how common the dangerous habit is in teens. Distracted driving deaths are most common in teens, blamed for about 16 percent of teen motor vehicle deaths.

Focusing on a cellphone instead of the road leads to delayed reaction times, lane swerves and other lapses with sometimes fatal consequences, experts say.

For the survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year questioned more than 15,000 public and private high school students across the country. Some earlier studies had suggested teen texting while driving was becoming common, though perhaps not quite so high.

Still, the numbers aren't really surprising, said Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center in Washington. She studies how teens use technology.

A typical teen sends and receives about 100 text messages a day, and it's the most common way many kids communicate with their peers.

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