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Too Many Teens Still Texting While Driving

But state bans have led to decreases, study finds

SATURDAY, April 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- State laws have helped reduce texting and driving by American teens, but many still engage in this unsafe behavior, a new study finds.

"Tragically, smartphones still allow teens to do stupid things while driving a car," said study senior investigator Dr. Andrew Adesman in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release. He is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Previous research has shown that texting while driving boosts the risk of a crash more than 20-fold, making it more dangerous than impaired driving. Because of their lack of experience, teen drivers are already more likely to crash, and behind-the-wheel texting accelerates that risk.

Between 2011 and 2013, texting while driving was outlawed in 14 states. Researchers surveyed thousands of teens across the country and found that the overall texting-and-driving rate fell from 43 percent in 2011 when no bans were in effect to just over 30 percent in 2013 when some states had made it illegal.

The researchers also found that texting while driving was nearly five times higher among experienced teen drivers than new drivers, and more common among 16-year-olds than 15-year-olds.

The study was scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Diego. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

"Despite public health campaigns and laws banning texting while driving in most states, texting while driving was four times more common among U.S. high school students than driving while under the influence of alcohol [41.4 percent vs. 10 percent]," said the study's principal investigator, Alexis Tchaconas, a research assistant at Cohen Children's Medical Center.

"Although laws that ban texting while driving appear to be somewhat effective in reducing this dangerous behavior by teen drivers, much more needs to be done to effectively eliminate this major distraction," Tchaconas said in the news release.

Adesman said it's unfortunate that smartphone makers don't restrict or disable texting features when the phone is traveling more than 5 mph. "As a parent and as a pediatrician, I would love to see some parental controls built into smartphones so that teenagers cannot be distracted while driving," he said in the release.

More information

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has more about texting while driving.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, April 25, 2015
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