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Originally published November 17, 2009 at 12:11 AM | Page modified November 17, 2009 at 11:09 AM

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Scary statistics on teen texting, calling while driving

Half of U.S. teens with cellphones admit talking on them while driving, and a third say they've written text messages while they were at the wheel, according to a report released Monday.

The Orlando Sentinel

LONGWOOD, Fla. — Half of U.S. teens with cellphones admit talking on them while driving, and a third say they've written text messages while they were at the wheel, according to a report released Monday.

According to the study by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C, which surveyed 800 teens up to age 17:

• 75 percent of teens have a cellphone, and more than half of them say they have talked on their cellphone while driving.

• 40 percent say they have been in a car when the driver used a cellphone "in a way that put themselves or others in danger."

• 48 percent of teens say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.

• More than one-third of teens ages 16 or 17 who text say they have texted while driving.

The study contained some troubling comments from the teenagers surveyed. One high schooler said he thinks texting while driving is "fine," adding "I wear sunglasses so the cops don't see (his eyes) looking down."

A girl said her "sister does it, despite my mother's warnings. So does my brother and my friends despite my warnings."

Others made distinctions between reading texts while driving, and actually typing out the answers. "And if I do text while I'm driving," one teen said, "I usually try to keep the phone up near the windshield, so if someone is braking in front of me or stops short, I'm not going to be looking down and hit them."

The Pew study was released in advance of a workshop on distracted driving that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to hold on Friday in Washington. Industry experts, members of government and the public will participate.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski already has gone on record with his concerns. "Distracted driving endangers life and property and the current levels of injury and loss are unacceptable," he sold a U.S. Senate committee last month.

He cited a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report in 2008 that said driver distraction is the cause of 16 percent of all fatal crashes, which translates to 5,800 people killed, and 21 percent of crashes that result in an injury, which is 515,000 people.

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The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would provide federal funding to states that pass laws against distracted driving.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted bans on texting while driving.

Research by AAA in California shows that in-vehicle text messaging has declined by 70 percent since California's law went into effect in January.

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