Teen texting and driving: More than half admit to doing it
Teen texting and driving is a national problem, according to the first federal statistics released on the topic, with 58 percent of high school seniors admitting that they text or e-mail while driving.
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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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.
"A lot of teens say 'Well, if the car's not moving and I'm at a stoplight or I'm stuck in traffic, that's OK,'" said Lenhart, who has done focus groups with teens on the topic.
Other teens acknowledge that it's not safe, but they think it is safer if they hold the phone up so they can see the road and text at the same time, she said.
The CDC survey didn't ask whether the texting or emailing was done while the vehicle was moving or stopped. The survey is conducted every two years, but this was the first time it asked about texting while driving.
Young's fender bender occurred one winter afternoon while he was in crawling traffic on his way to a guitar lesson. No one was hurt.
It's frustrating that the accident did not break him of the habit, Rimasse said.
She described her son as an articulate honors student in North Arlington who walks to school and spends little time in the SUV that they share.
But he is also part of a teen culture where virtually everyone texts while driving and thinks nothing bad will happen, she lamented.
"Nothing seems to stop them," his mother said. "It's ridiculous."
"Everybody just does it," Young said.
CDC officials said there was some good news in the survey:
— More teens are wearing seatbelts. Only 8 percent said they rarely or never wear seatbelts, down from 26 percent in 1991.
— Fewer teens said they drove drunk (8 percent vs. double that in the 1990s) or rode with a driver who had been drinking (24 percent, down from 40 percent).
Overall, teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes are down 44 percent in the last decade. About 3,100 teens died from traffic crashes in 2009, according to the most recent federal statistics.
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