(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Texting while driving is not just an epidemic among teenagers, it's a deadly epidemic.
Last month, the Davis family made an unbreakable rule for the family's brand-new driver, 16-year-old Lyric: She's not to text while driving, not ever.
"I would not have a car," she said what would happen if she broke the rule.
Most American teenagers are told not to text and drive, but the evidence is millions are not listening.
In an analysis of a 2011 survey done by the Centers for Disease Control, 46 percent of drivers at age 17 admitted they texted while driving, a number that rose to 52 percent for drivers over 18.
The survey alarmed the research team because of evidence that distracted driving - including texting - is now the leading single cause of teenage fatalities.
Dr. Andrew Adesman co-authored the study.
"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."
Forty-six states have responded by banning most or all texting while driving, but the laws don't seem to work with teenagers.
When researchers compared states with and without prohibitions, the level of teen texting was almost the same.
Even those teenagers who don't text and drive are often in a car with friends texting away.
"They just do it at red lights and, you know, it's just what they do," Lyric said.
The danger from teen texting has led to more proposals for car-based software that can disable texting.