CDC Study Says Teens Texting More, Drinking Less Behind the Wheel

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According to a new study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers are now driving while texting more than while drinking.

According to statistics released in 2012 by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety teenage car crashes in which cell phones were used has been on the rise peeking in 2012 at 44. Meanwhile car crashes in which alcohol was involved has been on the decline finishing at 115.

According to those statistics the most common age for texting and driving crashes in Nebraska is 17.

The Central Nebraska Council on Alcoholism and Addiction (CNCAA) conducted a survey of teens in their 22 counties on how often teens drink and drive.

"10% of 12th graders in Central Nebraska drove a vehicle when they had been drinking. And that was in the last 30 days so that's a very recent thing in their memory. Another statistic is for 12th graders 23.3% of them have ridden in the vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol," said Connie Holmes, the Executive Director of the CNCAA.

Grand Island police said they have no statistics on how many teens text and drive because it is a secondary offense, meaning people cannot be pulled over for it. But based on the CDC and Highway Safety it's likely higher than the drinking numbers.

While drinking and driving is dangerous for everyone, the risk of making poor decisions behind the wheel is especially likely for developing teenagers.

Holmes said, "I think it's just mainly that decision making part of the brain that isn't developed that just really puts them at extra risk."

Thankfully some teens in Grand Island said they don't know of many instances of their friends and classmates driving under the influence.

"Most of the people I know are trying to stay away from that and know that it's not a smart thing because it's such advertised that, 'Hey if you drink and drive this is what happens,'" said 16-year old Hannah Sugita.

16-year old Kennedy Martinez added, "Not personally that I know of, none of my friends ever have, but I'm sure teenagers in Grand Island have before.

The CDC said the number of teens drinking while driving is down more than half since 1991. So while one poor habit is slowly declining another is more rapidly becoming popular.

"I think texting and driving is definitely the bigger issue with teenagers in Grand Island because it's so easy to just have our phones there with us all the time and we don't have alcohol obviously," said Martinez.

While many teens know it's dangerous they admit it's hard to ignore when they hear their phone ring.

Sugita said, "In the social media of today you want to get texts, you want to seem cool, you want to get that Facebook alert and once you do you want to check it."

But many are hoping texting and driving will go the way of drinking behind the wheel, with students recognizing the danger and ignoring the distraction.

Holmes said, "5 seconds, 4 seconds, 10 seconds away from looking at where I'm supposed to driving or paying attention to my driving is really putting me and others at risk."