Distracted driving continues to be a serious problem, study shows

Teen drivers report unsafe driving habits that could lead to more accidents and increased auto insurance claims

Half of teenagers with cell phones talk behind the wheel and a third text while driving, a new study says, suggesting that distracted driving continues to endanger drivers and potentially raise auto insurance costs.

The study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project notes that distracted driving is most prevalent among those under 20. There were 5,870 fatalities and an estimated 515,000 injuries caused by driver distraction in 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.

And Pew's study cites July 2009 research by Virginia Tech that determined text messaging to be the riskiest cell phone-related task among drivers.

Teens surveyed expressed divergent views about texting or calling while driving. Some said they would protest if they were a passenger in a car where the driver was texting; others indicated that they didn't mind distractions because calling and texting behind the wheel were so common.

Distracted driving has become a hot-button issue in recent months as cell phone use becomes more prevalent. Webster's New World College Dictionary recently announced that "distracted driving" is the 2009 Word of the Year.

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Posted: November 18, 2009

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