Texting while driving has now replaced drunk driving as the number one cause of teenage deaths on the road in the US, new research has found.
The study, undertaken by the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York, found that more than 300,000 teens are injured and more than 3,000 die each year as a result of sending SMS messages while behind the wheel.
In comparison 282,000 are injured and 2,700 teenagers are killed as a result of drink driving.
Dr Andrew Adesman chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the lead author of the study. and a team of Cohen investigators found that between September 2010 and December 2011, among 8,947 teenagers aged 15-18 nationwide, an estimated 49 per cent of boys admitted to texting while driving compared with 45 per cent of girls.
“The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week – they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this a more common occurrence,” Dr. Andrew Adesman, Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the lead author of the study, told CBS News in New York.
Although it is illegal to text and drive in the UK, in many states in the US it is still allowed.
The news comes as the UK government proposes new fines and penalties to try to stop drivers using their phones in the UK.
Patrick McLoughlin, the UK transport minister, has indicated that fines for a variety of offences will rise by 50 per cent, from £60 to £90 if caught. Users will also be liable for three points on their licence.
Many experts believe that texting or using your phone at the wheel is more dangerous than drink driving because more of us are likely to do it more often as the urge to check our phone can be at any time rather than only when we've had a few drinks at a party.