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FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, a phone is held in a car in Brunswick, Maine. Texting while driving increased 50 percent last year and two out of 10 drivers say they've sent text messages or emails while behind the wheel despite a rush by states to ban the practice, the National Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Texting While Driving Still Popular - And Dangerous

Dec 8, 2011

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Korva Coleman

The government is out with a new study showing that people continue to text while driving, even as more states ban the practice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked 6,000 people last year about their phone habits behind the wheel, and discovered that about two in 10 drivers have sent text messages or even emails while they're driving. About half of motorists aged 21 through 24 admitted to doing this.

What's interesting is the vast majority of people questioned said they supported laws banning texting by drivers, and six in 10 respondents would even support laws banning talking on cell phones while behind the wheel.

But the majority of motorists believe they aren't distracted at all while they're driving, no matter what they're doing with their phones. That includes reading texts, putting on mascara or even reading the newspaper while steering.

In another effort to get drivers' attention, the Transportation Department is out today with a new index estimating the number of 'distraction-affected crashes'. The index shows 3,092 people died last year in accidents caused by distraction, usually related to cell phones. More pointedly, the agency says:

"In addition, given ongoing challenges in capturing the scope of the problem — including individuals' reluctance to admit behavior, lack of witnesses, and in some cases the death of the driver — NHTSA believes the actual number of crashes that involve distracted driving could be higher."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is again pushing for federal legislation banning texting while driving, according to USA Today.

NHTSA's telephone research was done a year ago. Since then, the agency says the number of states that ban texting while driving has reached 35, and there are similar bans in Washington, D.C. and Guam.

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