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updated 6/8/2012 3:44:50 PM ET 2012-06-08T19:44:50

More than half of high school seniors admit they text or email while driving — the first federal statistics on how common the dangerous habit is in teens.

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An anonymous national survey conducted last year found that 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing.

"I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised at all," said Vicki Rimasse, a New Jersey woman whose son caused a fender bender earlier this year after texting in traffic. She made him take a safe-driving class after the mishap.

"I felt like an idiot," said her 18-year-old son, Dylan Young.

"It caused me to be a lot more cautious," said the high school senior, although he conceded that he still texts behind the wheel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the survey results Thursday. Some earlier studies had suggested teen texting while driving was common though perhaps not quite so high.

Still, the numbers aren't really surprising, said Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center in Washington. She studies how teens use technology.

A typical teen sends and receives about 100 text messages a day, and it's the most common way many kids communicate with their peers. Even during short car rides it's not uncommon for messages to be coming in and for teens to respond, she said.

"A lot of teens say 'Well, if the car's not moving and I'm at a stoplight or I'm stuck in traffic, that's OK,'" said Lenhart, who has done focus groups with teens on the topic.

Other teens acknowledge they know it's not safe, but think it is safer if they hold the phone up so they can see the road and text at the same time, she said.

The CDC survey didn't ask whether high school students' texting was done while the vehicle was moving or stopped. The survey is conducted every two years, but this was the first time it asked about texting while driving.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: CDC: One-third of high school students text when driving

  1. Closed captioning of: CDC: One-third of high school students text when driving

    >>> tv viewers may remember the ominous public service announcement from years back. it's 10:00 p.m . do you know where your children are? well, these days, perhaps the question should be, do you know what your children are doing. every few years thrk centers for disease control surveyed this country's high school students about some of the risks they take on a regular basis, the kind of things parents suspect and fear the most. and tom costello has our report.

    >> if i could take it back, i would take it back.

    >> in massachusetts, 18-year-old aaron deveaux is sentenced tory yien jail for texting while driving and killing a 55-year-old father of three. now a cdc survey on risky behavior finds a third of all high schoolers admitting that texted or e-mailed while driving in the past 30 days .

    >> it's frustrating while we're making great progress in increasing seat belt use and dekreising kids driving while drinking, other things pop up in their place.

    >> other findings, the number of kids smoking cigarettes hasn't changed in 18 years, but more kids are regularly smoking marijuana, 23%. and while viewer kids are drinking alcohol , nearly 21% had taken prescription drugs without a prescription. it's no surprise to teen and adolescent psychiatrist.

    >> drugs and alcohol are being used by the straight-a students and the captain of the football team .

    >> experts say so much of the abuse is a sign of the tines. with so much pressure at home, at school, and online.

    >> 15.8% of students had they had considered suicide. nearly 8% had attempted it. a third were sexually active, a third had been involved in a fight at school. 20% said they had been bullied.

    >> some of this has to deal with the complexities of being a teenager.

    >> teen stress and the risky behavior it can lead to.

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