YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports magazine have released a poll that illustrates how widespread distracted driving is among young people and a plan to help fight it.
The poll says 63 percent of people under 30 acknowledge driving while using a handheld phone and 30 percent say they've sent text messages while behind the wheel. For those over 30, the percentages were 41 percent on the phone and 9 percent texting.
"That's an alarming percentage," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told 1010 WINS.
Ray LaHood tells WCBS 880's Catherine Cioffi that teenagers need to realize they are not invincible
Only about a third of the young people said they feel such behavior is very dangerous.
"Teens are most vulnerable because they're just learning how to drive, they're not experienced drivers and they don't need any distractions while they're driving," LaHood said.
"All of us were young at one time and we all thought that we were invicible, that nothing would happen to us, it's just simply not true," LaHood said.
The Department of Transportation says nearly 5,500 people in the U.S. were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2009.
"Our advice to young people is buckle up and put the texting device and the cell phone in the glove compartment," LaHood said.
"If we can prevent it from happening to more people, there might be some justice in this world,'' said Jacy Good, 24, of White Plains, N.Y. In 2008, her parents were killed and she was severely injured in a crash in Pennsylvania on her college graduation day. The 18-year-old driver who hit the Goods' station wagon was talking on his cell phone at the time, police said.
"I look forward to what we can accomplish,'' Good said at the news conference.
LaHood and Consumers Union President Jim Guest announced a partnership to help parents, teachers and teens battle distracted driving. A guide for parents and educators is being made available online and will be distributed to schools and volunteer groups. A public service announcement is being sent to TV stations, and a video meant for retail stores is expected to reach as many as 100 million people.
Consumer Reports notes three deadly statistics:
-- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.
-- Teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as other drivers.
-- The risk of collision is 23 times more likely while texting.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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