WASHINGTON – Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. And texting behind the wheel is even more dangerous than driving drunk. But are teens getting the message?
A new study by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York found that about 43 percent of teenagers admit to texting while driving, with boys more likely than girls to text.
“This is really a huge problem,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrew Adesman. “It’s not totally surprising that many kids are doing it, but I think there is a lack of awareness about how great the risks are.”
Drivers who text behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to have a car accident, the study says; that’s more dangerous than driving drunk.
Researchers also found that laws banning texting while driving had little effect. In states where it is illegal, 39 percent of teenagers admitted to doing it. In states with no restrictions, 44 percent of teens reported texting.
“I think the potential solutions are going to be technological ones,” Dr. Adesman says. “We need to have phones that don’t allow texting while the GPS sensors appreciate that they’re in a moving car.”
Dr. Adesman says teens who text and drive are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as driving drunk, using marijuana, and having unsafe sex.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 and presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Washington. About 7,800 high school students of driving age reported whether or not they had texted while driving at least once in the past 30 days.