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Nearly half of high schoolers in survey text while driving

Distracted drivers of all ages cause more fatal car accidents than anyone else. Whenever drivers look away from the road, they multiply their chances of having an accident. For teenage drivers, one of the biggest distractions is texting while driving, and the consequences can be fast and final.

Results of a 2011 risky behavior survey published recently by the online journal Pediatrics confirm disturbing data about teen texting while driving. Nearly half of the 8,500 high school drivers surveyed said they had texted while driving during the previous 30 days. Older students were more likely to text and drive, and males practiced this risky behavior more often than females.

According to an AT&T survey, teens who text while operating vehicles are far more likely to have an accident than teens who don't. Additionally, while 97 percent of those surveyed knew the dangers of texting and driving, 43 percent said they did it anyway. When drivers are texting and driving, their traffic reaction times are substantially affected. In fact, the study showed that 11 times more texting teens missed traffic signals.

Research also reveals a connection between teens who drive and text and other kinds of dangerous behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that traffic accidents are the leading cause of injury or fatality in teens aged 16 through 19. This age group is involved with more crashes - texting related or not - than any other.

CDC identifies several reasons behind this trend:

  • High school students tend to underestimate hazards.
  • They speed more frequently.
  • One-fourth of teens who died in traffic accidents in 2010 had alcohol in their systems.
  • Fewer teen drivers use seatbelts than members of any other age group.

When teen drivers combine these practices with texting, they significantly compound their risk of accidents resulting in injury or death. Texting while driving not only puts young drivers but passengers and other motorists in danger.

Sources: HealthDay, "Nearly Half of High Schoolers Text While Driving: Survey," Denise Mann, May 13; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Teen Drivers: Fact sheet; AT&T, "Learn who's at risk, and how you can help"

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