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Risky Behavior Down, Distracted Driving Up for Teens

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man texting behind the wheel

According to Reuters, a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that overall, young people have more healthy behaviors today than they did 20 years ago, and fewer are smoking cigarettes, using drugs, fighting, and drinking alcohol. They’re also more likely to wear seatbelts and helmets than they used to be, although more are obese and don’t get enough sleep.

But the most disturbing findings were that over 40 percent of teens who drive admit to having texted or emailed while driving at least once during the 30 days prior to the survey, and 58 percent of high school students admitted to texting while driving at some point. The findings were published in the June 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report. About 13,500 surveys were administered at public and private high schools nationwide to gather the data.

State Laws

While no state bans all cellphone use for all drivers, 12 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving; 37 states as well as the District of Columbia ban all cellphone use by novice or teen drivers; and 18 states plus the District of Columbia prohibit any cellphone use by school bus drivers, as reported by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U. S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers, four states prohibit text messaging by novice or teen drivers, and three states restrict school bus drivers from texting. Colorado does not have a hand-held ban, but does prohibit all cellphone use for drivers younger than 18, bans texting by all drivers, and treats violations as primary offenses.

The CDC study provides texting-while-driving figures for teens in 37 states, which ranged from a low of 32 percent in Massachusetts to a high of 61 percent in South Dakota. According to a Colorado-only Internet survey conducted by AAA Colorado, 51 percent of Colorado teens admitted to texting while driving, and 66 percent said they have talked on their cellphone while driving, despite an overwhelming 97 percent of the state’s teens who said they knew that texting while driving is dangerous.

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