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Over 40 Percent of Teens Text While Driving in What Researchers Call 'Epidemic'

Update Date: May 06, 2013 12:06 PM EDT
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Lawmakers and advertisements ask teenagers and other drivers to put away their phones while they are in the car. According to a recent study, it seems that such campaigns have had limited success. In fact, 43 percent of teenagers text while driving. That is a concern because, by one estimate, texting while driving raises the risk of an accident by 23 percent.

Researchers are calling the phenomenon an epidemic. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and texting while driving compounds the risk. In fact, some experts believe that texting while driving is even more dangerous than driving under the influence.

In order to assess how many teenagers drink and drive, 7,833 teenagers who had their driving licenses were surveyed with the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Included on the questionnaire was the query, "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you text or e-mail while driving a car or other vehicle?"

In total, 43 percent of teenagers said that they had driven while texting over the past 30 days. Interestingly, according to CBS News, the laws in 46 states had little effect on whether or not teens drove while texting; 44 percent of teens in states without laws forbidding the act drove and texted, compared to 39 percent of teens in states where there were laws on the matter. Males were more likely to report that they had texted while driving; 46 percent of males reported engaging in the behavior, while 40 percent of females reported the same. The percentage of people who had texted while driving also increased with age; while 26 percent of 15-year-olds texted behind the wheel 52 percent of 18-year-olds said the same.

Though teenagers are developmentally at a stage in their lives where they engage in risky behavior, teens who text behind the wheel may engage in more risk than others. Indeed, teens who texted while driving were more likely to have unprotected sex, use indoor tanning beds or drive under the influence of alcohol, Health Day reports.

The study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting on Saturday.

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