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Nearly half of teens admit to texting while driving

Cell phones and text messaging are used by students, parents, teachers, principals and grandparents. Check articles, photos and ads for other examples of things that are hugely popular among people of pretty much any age.
Some papers send Twitter or e-mail alerts about breaking news and special coverage. Look for an online area where those bulletins also appear or where readers can sign up for electronic feeds.
In addition to driving laws, legislators regularly consider other measures that would affect people in your state. Can you find coverage, an editorial or a letter to the editor about a legislative bill or new law?

Ignition keys, not keys on a handheld device, are the only ones to touch behind the wheel of a vehicle. Driver's ed teachers and safety crusaders aren't the only ones saying that. In a new poll, 97 percent of Americans say sending a text message while driving should be illegal and half say texting while operating a vehicle should be punished at least as harshly as drunken driving.

Studies back up the concerns. At the University of Utah, research on college students using driving simulators shows texting makes a crash eight times more likely. And a Virginia Tech study based on video cameras in long-haul trucks found that texting raised drivers' collision risk by 23 times -- far more than other driving distractions.
In response, 14 states prohibit text messaging by motorists. New York this month became the latest with such a laws. And in England, British judicial guidelines make prolonged texting a serious aggravating factor in "death by dangerous driving" cases -- just like drinking -- and generally recommend four to seven years in prison.

But according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), nearly half of teens admit to texting while driving. To show students the risks, Pennsylvania officials bring Nintendo Wii driving simulators to schools and invite students to navigate while phone-texting. On-screen crashes or close calls occur regularly. A similar experience was reported last week by a Christian Science Monitor contributor who tested her texting-while-driving skill at highway speed in the safety of a university lab. "I wasn't as good as I thought," she wrote. "I ran off the freeway five times and hit another car at 65 m.p.h."

Teen says: "I'm not going to be texting and driving because it's too difficult. . . . It's really hard to concentrate on both things." -- Angela Olshansky, Pennsylvania high school student after simulator drill

Adult driver says: "Someone who is texting creates just as much of a danger as someone behind the wheel who is inebriated." -- Michael Brooks of Limerick, Pa., respondent in recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

Official says: "Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things teens will do in their lives, and they can't afford to be doing other things in a car -- such as texting and talking on the cell phone." -- Sean Houck, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2015
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