While 35 states currently ban texting by all drivers while driving, more than four of five young drivers admit to reading a text message while driving.

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That’s according to a survey conducted by the Ad Council, which just launched a national public service campaign. The campaign is supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the State Attorneys General.

Talking about the campaign, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Putting away cell phones and other distractions while you are driving is not just commonsense safety behavior, it can save your life.”

Attorney General Rob McKenna, 2012 President of the National Association of Attorneys General said, “Every second matters when you’re behind the wheel. No text, tweet, or Facebook update is worth your life.”

The PSAs direct audiences to stoptextsstopwrecks.org to find facts about the impact of texting while driving and tips on how to curb the behavior. Check out the video below from the site.

NHTSA survey on distracted driving

Supporting the need for increased public awareness are the results of NHTSA’s first national telephone survey on distracted driving conducted in 2010, which showed that 18 percent of drivers said they’ve texted while driving. Among drivers aged 21 to 24, half admitted to texting behind the wheel.

Other results of the telephone survey include:

  • Men are more likely to continue driving while texting than women (70 percent men, 61 percent women).
  • The level of importance of the message is the reason for texting or emailing a message across all age groups.
  • Men and those aged 35 to 64 say they are more likely to send work-related text messages.
  • More women than men say they would never send texts while moving (12 percent women, 5 percent men).
  • Younger drivers are two to five times more likely to report they drift out of a lane roadway when texting than older drivers.
  • Individuals in the highest income group (more than $100,000) report driving slower while texting than other income groups.
  • The majority of respondents support bans on handheld cell phone use (71 percent) and texting while driving (74 percent) and approve of fines of $100 or higher (69 percent for handheld cell phone use and 79 percent for texting). Almost one-quarter support fines in the $200 to $499 range.
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The full NHTSA Distracted Driving Survey is available here.

Pilot enforcement campaigns paved the way

Getting the message to drivers that texting while driving is a practice that needs to stop does seem to pay off. In two pilot campaigns conducted in 2010 by the NHTSA in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York, the combination of beefed-up enforcement efforts and increased public service announcements (PSAs) showed results.

Over the course of a year and four enforcement waves, handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel declined by one-third in Syracuse, while in Hartford during the same period, driver handheld cell phone use dropped by 57 percent and texting declined by nearly  three-quarters. The full NHTSA report of the four high-visibility enforcement waves is available here.

Bottom line: High-visibility enforcement and stepped-up awareness campaigns may finally bring the message home about not texting while driving. But it will be an uphill battle, nonetheless. Ingrained habits are hard to change, but they can change over time.


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This article originally appeared on Family Car Guide.