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Teens just can't stop texting and driving

Sunday - 4/8/2012, 11:57am  ET

WASHINGTON - April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, and the focus is on a dangerous combination of texting and driving.

It is illegal in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., but teens here and elsewhere appear to be ignoring the law in large numbers. In some surveys, almost 50 percent say they text while driving.

Rocco Panetta, executive director of the Texting Awareness Foundation, says texting can be more dangerous than drunken driving and creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving under normal circumstances.

He says teens are addicted to texting, and feel they can do multiple things at once.

"And as they text on a daily basis," he says. "They feel that they are texting and driving without any problem."

But he says when they send a message, they have to look down at the screen and that means taking their eyes off the road.

"It takes four and a half to five seconds to type or read two words on your phone," he says. "Imagine driving down the road, close your eyes and count to five Mississippi. You would never do it. You wouldn't make it past two."

Panetta's foundation uses videos and graphics to get the message home to teens about the extreme dangers of distracted driving.

He says teens tend to think they are invincible, and that life is full of second chances. There is none, however, when it comes to texting and driving.

"The life they are saving could be there own, it could be the friend sitting next to them in that car, it could be a family person walking across the street," Panetta says. "You have no second chance to ever take that back when that happens."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)