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Teens Say They Don't Text Or Drink While Driving

I'm not really texting. I'm checking my homework assignments.
I'm not really texting. I'm checking my homework assignments.

Many teen drivers are earnest when they say they know the risks of drinking and driving or texting behind the wheel. But it seems many either ignore those dangers or don't fully understand what it means to drive safely.

About half of teens who say they never text while driving admitted to texting at red lights or stop signs, according to a survey released Tuesday. And while 86 percent of teens consider driving under the influence to be dangerous, one in 10 who say they never drive under the influence actually do drive after drinking.

Teens also are foggy about what it means to be a designated driver. About 20 percent define a designated driver as someone who is allowed to indulge in a little alcohol or drugs, rather than someone who is completely sober.

That kind of confusion can be a bad thing, given that a quarter of fatal crashes involving young drivers result from drinking and driving.

"The good news is that a very high percentage of young people are aware," says Stephen Wallace, the CEO of Students against Destructive Decisions [SADD], a non-profit that aims to help teens refrain from underage drinking, drugs and impaired driving.

"The bad news is they're sort of casting that aside and doing those things anyway," he tells Shots.

The survey, which was commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD, included over 2,500 11th and 12th-graders from around the country and 1,000 parents of teen drivers.

The results indicate that parents should talk to their teens and make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to safe driving, Wallace says. Parents also should keep in mind that teens tend to mirror their behavior.

An earlier survey that Liberty Mutual and SADD commissioned in 2012 found that teens tend to copy what their parents model, and take note when their parents break the traffic laws.

Lessons about drinking and driving tend to come with age, says David Melton, a managing director of safety at Liberty Mutual. But texting and driving is common to drivers of all age groups.

"This is a societal issue," Melton tells Shots. "It crosses all the age barriers."

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