Study: Half of teen drivers text behind the wheel

A motorist tries to send a text message while driving. CBS

In a large national survey, nearly half of all respondents 16 years or older admitted to having texted while driving behind the wheel.

Additionally, the teens who admitted to the risky behavior are more likely to engage in others, like irregular seat belt use and drinking while driving, according to a study released Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

The coupling of risky behaviors makes this among the most important teen safety issues, the journal wrote, and singles out an important subgroup of teens that officials should focus on, as teens who text and drive are five times more likely to also drink and drive.

The issue of distracted driving has come more to the forefront in recent years as the scientific community studies it more closely.

An analysis by the National Safety Council recently concluded that crash deaths by drivers on the phone were seriously underreported nationwide. They concluded this compounds the problem because it makes it seem less serious, and impedes efforts to win passage of tougher laws.

"Strategies to reduce this and other risky driving behaviors may include state laws and technological solutions, but parental supervision may be the most effective prevention tool," wrote the authors of the Pediatrics study.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, who co-authored a study on the problem for the Centers for Disease Control recently, recently told CBS News it is imperative the problem be addressed at all levels due to the danger.

"Texting while driving is just becoming sort of epidemic, and it's a higher cause of deaths than even drinking while driving," said Adesman. "The impairment that comes with texting is worse than drinking while driving."

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