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New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point to texting while driving as where the most safety education and behavior-changing work needs to be done for teen drivers. While data has improved on both seat belt use and drinking and driving, the numbers related to texting while driving solidify its position as the big safety issue of this generation.

The data from the CDC reveals that intense safety campaigns over the last few decades that address seatbelt use and drunk driving have made notable progress. Looking at numbers from 1991-2011, the percentage of high school students who said that they never or rarely wore a seatbelt declined from 26% to just 8%. Also showing improvement (but leaving room for much more) were the numbers on drunk driving. The percentage of teenagers saying that they had ridden with a driver that had been drinking fell from 40% to 24%, still an unacceptably high number. Between 1997 and 2011, the percentage of teens who said that they had driven under the influence of alcohol fell from 17% to 8%.

So where are the new safety battles going to be waged? Cell phone use, whether it is for talking, texting or emailing. It’s a little difficult to know where we’ve come from on this issue, as the CDC has not been tracking data on cell phone use while driving. But in its most recent survey of teen drivers, a full one-third of students replied that they had sent a text or an email while driving. Changing this will not be easy; even those teenagers who had already been in an accident while texting said that they would do it again.

But there is hope for improvement, as the numbers on seat belt use and drunk driving have proven. It will take a combination of stiffer legislation, improved driver safety education, and convincing teens to make a personal commitment to safe driving.

Lindsay Rakers is a Missouri and Illinois accident injury attorney. She helps victims of the following: St. Louis car accidents, OFallon Illinois car accidents, Edwardsville Illinois car accidents, Belleville Illinois car accidents, St. Clair County Illinois car accidents, Madison County Illinois car accidents.

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