Teens Drive and Text Despite Risks

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Teenagers may understand the fatal consequences of driving while intoxicated, but they’re still unclear on the dangers of driving while texting, according to a new survey conducted for State Farm insurance company.

According to the report, 55% of all licensed or soon-to-be-licensed drivers age 14-17 admit drinking while driving could lead to death. However, only 36% agreed that if they text and drive regularly, they could be killed.

More teens also believe that drinking while driving will lead to an accident. Of them, 78% strongly agreed they could get into an accident if they drink and drive, while 63% strongly agreed they could get into an accident if they text and drive.

“Some teens still think the consequences of reaching for a cell phone are less severe than reaching for a beer bottle," Laurette Stiles, vice president of strategic resources at State Farm, said in a press release."We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to helping teens understand that texting while driving can be every bit as dangerous as drinking while driving. It's an awareness gap that must be addressed."

State Farm’s survey was conducted by the market research company Harris Interactive in July. Responses were elicited from 697 American teens.

Their responses come in light of research that shows the impairment caused by texting while driving is actually quite severe. A 2008 study by United Kingdom's Transport Research Laboratory showed that the reaction time of drivers aged 17-24 years was reduced by 35% when typing a text message, compared with 12% when driving after consuming alcohol to the legal limit.

More recent research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the University of Utah confirmed separately that texting while driving greatly increased the risk of getting into an accident. In January 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that drivers who are texting cause 200,000 crashes each year.

Currently, 30 states ban texting while driving and 10 of those states enacted their laws just this year.

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