Texting while driving has become a greater hazard than drinking and driving among teenagers who openly acknowledge sending and reading text messages while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
The number of teens who are dying or being injured as a result of texting while driving has skyrocketed as mobile device technology has advanced. Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries.
The habit now surpasses the number of teens who drink and drive -- a hazard that has been on a dramatic decline in recent years, researchers say.
An estimated 2,700 young people die each year as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol and 282,000 are treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Andrew Adesman and a team of Cohen investigators found that while driving between September 2010 and December 2011, among 8,947 teenagers aged 15-18 nationwide, an estimated 49 percent of boys admitted to texting while driving compared with 45 percent of girls.
Texting also increased with age. Only 24 percent of 15-year-olds tapped out messages while driving, compared with 58 percent of 18-year-olds, the data showed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged Wednesday that distracted driving of all kinds -- including the use of handheld cellphones -- is a growing hazard. Agency officials describe texting as among the worst of driver distractions because conversing by text simultaneously involves manual, visual and mental distractions.