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How bad a problem is teens' texting, driving? Very bad, indeed

The above headline is, unfortunately, far from hyperbole. The sad and simple fact is that, notwithstanding the strong and persistent efforts of safety regulators, law enforcement departments, school officials and a host of other groups, teen motorists continue to text while driving.

And the number of those doing so just keeps going up and up. The attendant risks of that behavior for car accidents, pedestrian fatalities and other mishaps are both glaring and immediate in Ohio and nationally. Indeed, tragic stories emerge daily regarding dire outcomes related directly to inattentive teen drivers behind the wheel.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct an annual survey on the behaviors of the nation's youth. The study includes scrutiny of drinking and driving, having unprotected sex and other risky behaviors.

It also includes an analysis of texting and driving, with the report from 2011 (the most current year reported) culling the responses of nearly 8,000 high school students from across the country.

Those responses are flatly sobering. According to the data, 43 percent of all respondents stated that they had sent or read text messages while driving within 30 days of the survey.

Ironically, and spelling a warning call, the activity increased rather than lessened as drivers got older, with the highest rate of texting while driving occurring with the most mature teenagers. More than 50 percent of respondents over 18, for example, admitted to the activity.

And having a strong state law on the books against it seems to have little effect on curbing texting behind the wheel.

One of the principal researchers involved in the study says that, while teens "may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behavior," strong efforts must continue to be made to better educate them about the perils of texting and driving.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "More than 4 in 10 U.S. teens text while driving: survey," May 4, 2013

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