Study: More than half of older teens text, email while driving

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by Matt Sczesny / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 6:20 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Think your teen would never text while driving? A new study done by the Centers for Disease Control says more than half of high school seniors admitted they text or email while behind the wheel.

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.

The study also said 75 percent of people surveyed said their friends do it, and what’s even more puzzling is 97 percent percent of teens say they know it’s dangerous.

“They know it’s wrong, and sadly the kids that have suffered are more passionate about it, but it’s too late for them,” said Bob Bunton, a driver’s ed teacher at Parkway North High school

Laws on both sides of the river have now made the practice illegal, with an all-out ban for any driver in Illinois and for those 21 and younger in Missouri.

But Bunton says the laws so far have had a small impact on stopping teens.

“It’s now gone from where texting was not illegal and they had it up to eye level to now trying to hide it and dropped the level, which has dropped the eyeballs and it’s even worse,” he said.

Illinois state police admit enforcement is a problem when phones are concealed.

But the danger is very much in the open.

State police now say a 16-year-girl who was killed in a crossover crash along I-55 in Collinsville last year was likely using a cell phone.

Police said one reason teens may not be able to put the phone down when driving may be because of their parents.

“Parents need to set the good example. They shouldn’t be texting and driving either. If a child sees a parent do it, they’ll do it too,” said Illinois State Police Trooper Mike Link.

The average teen sends and receives 100 texts a day, and resisting the urge to read them and type when behind the wheel is one message that is largely still being ignored.

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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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