Texting and driving: leading cause of death among teens, study finds

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Source: IntelFreePress/FlickrThe number of deaths from drinking and driving among teenagers has taken a backseat to the hazards of texting while driving. Worse yet, fifty percent of high school students of driving age acknowledge texting while driving.

A new study shows researchers at Cohen Children s Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries, a significant difference from the estimated 2,700 teenagers who die each year as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol and 282,000 who are treated for injuries in motor-vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the 8,947 teens between the ages of 15 and 18 nationwide involved in the study, an estimated 49 percent of males admitted to texting while driving, compared with 45 percent of females. But adults aren t in the clear here- texting also increased with age. Roughly 58 percent of 18-year-olds engaged in texting while driving, compared with only 24 percent of 15-year-olds, the data showed.

The new findings are in direct contrast to findings about driving while intoxicated among teens. Last fall, the CDC announced that alcohol use among teenagers has decreased by 54 percent since 1991. Researchers attribute the spike in texting while driving to the advancement of technology in the last seven years. Dr. Andrew Adesman, a researcher, says a person who is texting behind the wheel is as impaired as a driver who is legally drunk, since conversing by text involves manual, visual and mental distractions.

Moreover, the recent findings question whether or not texting while driving laws have been effective. When we compared states where there are no laws in effect [barring texting while operating a moving vehicle] and states where there are laws on the books, we found there was no difference in their responses, Adesman adds. Clearly, the laws are not effective.

ACSH s assistant director of public health, Ariel Savransky, says This is clearly a huge public health issue and steps must be taken to reduce incidences of texting while driving. And even though the report is pointing to teens, plenty of adults text while driving as well. Obviously making this practice illegal has not had a huge impact, so it s imperative that we come up with new solutions to deter texting while driving. For teens, it may be a question of really ingraining the message in their heads that the consequences could be detrimental. Or maybe tougher laws need to be put into effect.