Many teens still text while driving

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The findings of a new study show that too many teens are ignoring warnings about the risks of texting while driving. Research has demonstrated that texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times, and many experts say texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

Researchers analysed data from about 7 800 US high school students who had their driver's license and took part in the 2011 survey on youth behaviours conducted yearly by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The teens were asked if they had texted while driving in the past 30 days, and 43% said they had.

Males were more likely to text while driving than females - 46% versus 40%, respectively. The likelihood of texting while driving increased with age: 52% of those over age 18, 46% of 17-year-olds, 33% of 16-year-olds and 26% of 15-year-olds.

The study also found that teens who texted while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behaviours, such as drinking and driving, having unprotected sex, and using indoor tanning devices.

'Reducing the prevalence'

"By identifying associated high-risk behaviours such as these, it is our hope that we can develop more effective mechanisms to reduce texting while driving," principal investigator Alexandra Bailin, a research assistant at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

Bailin and her colleagues also found that state laws banning texting while driving had little effect. 39% of teens reported texting and driving in states where it is illegal, compared with 44% of teens in states with no restrictions, according to the study, which is scheduled for Saturday presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Although teens may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behaviour, reducing the prevalence of texting while driving is an obvious and important way to ensure the health and safety of teen drivers, their passengers and the surrounding public," Bailin said.

More information

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about distracted driving.

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