AAA survey says adults text and drive more often than teens

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Flipping conventional wisdom upside down, a new report says that high school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often that adults do.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says while the public often cites teens as being the most common offenders, a recent survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety collected the data as part of the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The data are from a sample of 2,325 licensed drivers, ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every ten fatal crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year, though AAA says that "experts agree the numbers are likely underestimated."

The report's release comes as Floridians are now subject for the first time to sanctions if they are caught texting while driving, though critics say the bill doesn't go nearly far enough. The new legislation that went into effect on October 1 makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers must be stopped for a separate alleged traffic violation before being ticketed for texting while driving. A first offense ticket comes with a $30 fine plus court costs and that rises to $60 for a second offense.

In Florida, over 4,500 accidents last year were attributed to drivers being distracted by their cell phones or other electronic communication devices. Two hundred and fifty-five of those crashes were directly linked to texting, although law enforcement officials say that the actual number of crashes caused by texting is probably much higher.

And there is still dispute about whether such distracted driving laws actually work. A study released earlier this year in the American Economic Journal by University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee professors Rah Abouk and Scott Adams concluded that such laws "appear moderately successful" if universally applied and enforced as a primary offense.

But secondary offenses like the one Florida has in statute? The professors says at best such laws have "no effect on accidents." They write:

Any reduction in accidents following texting bans is short-lived, however, with accidents returning to near former levels within a few months. This is suggestive of drivers reacting to the announcement of the legislation only to return to old habits shortly afterward.

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