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Survey: Most teens have driven while distracted

Survey from Seventeen magazine and AAA finds 86 percent of teens have driven while texting or amid other distractions even though most know it's dangerous.

Most teenagers have driven while distracted even though most know such behavior is dangerous, according to a new survey released Monday.

Almost 86 percent admitted to driving while texting, talking on a phone, or doing other distracting things behind the wheel, according to the results of a survey conducted by Seventeen magazine and the AAA, formally known as the American Automobile Association. The teens said they texted, talked, and ate while driving even though 84 percent of them said they know it's dangerous.

Among those surveyed, 73 percent said they've adjusted their radios while driving, 61 percent said they've eaten food, and 60 percent admitted to chatting on a cell phone. Though most know it's wrong, many of them still came up with ways to justify their behavior. About 41 percent said they think their action will only take a split second, 35 percent don't think they'll get hurt, 34 percent claimed they're used to multitasking, and 32 percent don't think anything bad will happen as a result.

But when teens are the passengers, their attitude seems to change a bit. Among those surveyed, 38 percent said they've been afraid they would get hurt in a car because the driver was distracted by doing something else. And no matter who's driving, many teenagers have come close to danger. More than 36 percent said they believe they've been involved in a near-accident because of their own or someone else's distracted driving.

"It's great that so many teens are able to identify the bad driving habits that will put them and their friends in danger," Seventeen editor in chief Ann Shoket said in a statement. "But the bigger challenge we face now is to give them the tools they need to stop driving while distracted."

Texting while driving is still among the top riskest behaviors, especially among teenagers who are still learning safe driving skills, according to the AAA. But the survey found that teen drivers who texted sent on average 23 messages over the past month.

"Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teen drivers and the proliferation of distracted driving among teens is a challenge all of us must face head-on," AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet said in a statement. "Because of their lack of driving experience and penchant to take risks, it's imperative that teen drivers--like all drivers--remain focused behind the wheel at all times."

Almost 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, while more than a half million were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Conducted in May, the survey questioned almost 2,000 male and female drivers between the ages of 16 and 19. The results of the survey will appear in the September issue of Seventeen.