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Texting Surpasses DUI as a Driving Risk for Teens

Even though New Jersey law forbids drivers from using a handheld cellphone for phone calls or texting, many drivers may not fully understand the possible consequences of cellphone distraction while driving. Sadly, laws governing cellphone use do not appear to be fully effective. One researcher looking into cellphone use while driving found no difference in responses between study participants who lived in states with laws banning cellphone use and those in states that did not.

Especially Deadly For Teens

As reported by Newsday, recent research conducted at Cohen Children’s Medical Center has provided an eye-opening look at the extent of the distracted driving problem. The research team discovered that almost half the teenage boys in their nationwide study engaged in texting while driving. Nearly as many of the teenage girls, 45 percent, admitted to texting when behind the wheel.

The study showed that texting got worse as the teens got older. Less than a fourth of the youngest drivers, the 15-year-olds, texted while driving, but 58 percent of the 18-year-olds did.

This dangerous practice is on the rise, while teen drinking while driving has declined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use by teenage drivers has gone down by 54 percent since 1991. As a result, texting is now more deadly than DUI among teenage drivers. In 2011, the Cohen researchers estimate, 3,000 teens died and 300,000 were injured in crashes involving texting. That year 2,700 traffic fatalities and 282,000 injuries among teens were due to alcohol use, says the CDC.

Serious Distraction

What teenage drivers may not realize is that texting involves three different functions, creating a high level of distraction. Typing and reading text requires manual, visual and mental functions, engaging so much of the user’s attention that it is impossible to focus adequately on driving.

Even older drivers are falling into the trap. Newsday cites a California study showing that almost two-thirds of adults aged 30 to 64 had driven while using a cellphone when children were in the car, and one-third admitted they had texted when driving.

Across the nation, about 600,000 drivers are likely to be on the phone at any given time during the day, and more than 100,000 are reading or sending texts.

When a distracted driver causes an accident resulting in personal injury or death, the driver’s negligence could result in compensation for damages. Courts may award damages, including medical costs, pain and suffering, and wages lost while a victim is not able to work. An experienced attorney can help injured persons by working to recover these damages.

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