Washington: Teens may be getting hundreds of text messages a day, but one message they can’t get is that they shouldn''t text and drive, say researchers.
According to a study, nearly 43 percent of high school students of driving age, who were surveyed in 2011, reported texting while driving at least once in the past 30 days.
Principal investigator Alexandra Bailin, a research assistant at Cohen Children''s Medical Center of New York said that texting while driving has become, in the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a ''national epidemic.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and using a phone while driving significantly increases the risk of accidents in this age group.
The specific act of texting while driving has been found to raise the risk of a crash by 23 times, leading many to conclude that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
"Although teens may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behavior, reducing the prevalence of texting while driving is an obvious and important way to ensure the health and safety of teen drivers, their passengers and the surrounding public," Bailin said.
To determine the prevalence of texting while driving among youths, Bailin and her colleagues analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 7,833 high school students, who were old enough to get a driver''s license in their state.
The researchers also sought to determine whether other high-risk behaviours are associated with texting while driving and if state laws prohibiting drivers from texting are effective among high school students.
Survey results showed that 46 percent males’ text while driving than 40 percent females and the prevalence of texting increased with age.
Furthermore, teens who reported texting while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol, having unprotected sex and using an indoor tanning device.
Bailin said that by identifying associated high-risk behaviors such as these, it is their hope that they can develop more effective mechanisms to reduce texting while driving.
The researchers also found that state laws banning texting while driving had little effect with 39 percent of teens reported texting in states where it is illegal vs. 44 percent of teens in states that have no restrictions.