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Survey: 26 percent admit to texting while driving

New survey from Vlingo says one in four mobile phone users text behind the wheel, despite bans in several states and concerns over increased auto accidents.

If you're taking a car trip this Memorial Day weekend, you may feel safest driving in Arizona, but you may want to steer clear of Tennessee.

A survey just released by mobile application vendor Vlingo says 26 percent of mobile phone users questioned admit to DWT, or driving while texting. The highest number of offenders are in Tennessee, with 42 percent of people saying they text behind the wheel, while Arizona drivers came in lowest at 18.8 percent.

Driving while texting is now fully banned in seven states as well as Washington, D.C., and partially banned in a select few other states. But it's not just auto drivers who pose a threat. Earlier this month, a 24-year-old Massachusetts subway operator rammed his train into the one ahead of him, sending almost 50 people to the hospital. According to investigators, the man later admitted to authorities he had been texting with his girlfriend while operating the train.

"In just one year, the public conversation about the issue of DWT has escalated, particularly in the wake of some high-profile accidents," said Dave Grannan, CEO of Vlingo. "Texting is such an integral component of our daily lives, and the cautionary tales about DWT danger have not stemmed the tide. We predicted last year that this problem would get worse, and it has since more people are texting."

Eighty-three percent of the people surveyed said they feel texting while driving should be illegal. But 40 percent of those questioned would OK DWT with the proper safety precautions, such as voice-activated commands. Further, 70 percent would use voice technology to speak and listen to incoming messages as opposed to typing and reading.

However, a study conducted last year from Carnegie Mellon University found that just listening to cell phone messages can impair a driver's ability to concentrate on the road.

The Vlingo survey uncovered other trends based on age. Almost 60 percent of people ages 16 to 19 and 49 percent of those in their 20s admit to texting while driving. Among people in their 50s, 13 percent said they have texted behind the wheel.

The 2009 survey released on Wednesday was the second annual one that Vlingo has commissioned. Survey results were based on responses from 4,816 people living in the continental U.S. Vlingo makes a voice-activated application for mobile phones, so one can argue that it may have a vested interest in the results. However, the company says the survey was conducted by an independent research firm named Toluna.