Over 15,000 teenagers were surveyed as part of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011, which evaluated texting while driving during the 30 days before completing the questionnaire.
The experts also included other risky behaviors in the survey, such as irregular seat belt use and driving when they had been drinking alcohol. The results of the study were published in the June 2013 issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The authors explained that of the usable surveys, approximately 8,500 students aged 16 years or older included an answer to the question regarding texting while driving.
Nearly half (44.5%) said they had done so one or more days, and one in four engaged in this behavior on a daily basis.
Emily O'Malley Olsen, study author and a health statistician in the department of adolescent and school health at the U.S. CDC, said to HealthDay News:
"The numbers are fairly concerning. It just takes a second of looking away from the road to get into trouble.
Teens are pretty new drivers and less able to recognize hazardous driving situations and they tend to perceive risk a little bit differently than adults. Parents should monitor their kids and have frequent discussions about things that can come up while driving such as texting, playing with the radio or playing around with their buddies."
The older the student was, the more likely he or she was to text and drive, according to the scientists. The male participants texted while driving more frequently than the females.
The students who reported texting while driving had an increased likelihood to engage in other risky behaviors.
For example, their probability of driving a car after they had been drinking was five times greater than those who did not text while driving. They were also much more likely to not wear a seat belt.
Distracted driving caused by texting has become a significant safety issue for adolescents. A previous study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that texting and cell phone use has resulted in a significant increase in fatalities due to distracted driving.
The experts concluded:
"Strategies to reduce this and other risky driving behaviors may include state laws and technological solutions, but parental supervision may be the most effective prevention tool."
"The most effective way is to make it real and immediate to teens is by citing an example of someone in the community or school who died or was seriously injured as a result of texting while driving," Dr. Lee Beers, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., said to HealthDay News.
Written by Sarah Glynn