BURLINGTON (AP) -- Nearly 60 percent of Vermont high school seniors text or email while driving, according to 2013 health risk reports released Thursday by the state Department of Health.
This was the first year that the health department assessed texting and driving behavior in students as part of its Youth Risk Behavior Survey. More than 33 percent of high school students and more than 56 percent of high school seniors reported texting or emailing while driving in the last 30 days, the survey showed.
Research shows that driving safely requires a vehicle operator's full focus, said Ted Minall, chief of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
"Vermont state law prohibits texting while driving, and educators and parents have a responsibility to promote a no-texting message," Minall said.
The survey is administered every other year to students in grades six through 12 and assesses the prevalence of behaviors such as smoking, drinking and using drugs as well as exercise, nutrition and weight.
Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said "significantly fewer students" drink, smoke or abuse prescription drugs but adults habits have not changed, according to a risk report for adults. Chen also highlighted weight as a problem for Vermont residents. The risk reports show that 30 percent of students and 60 percent of adults have unhealthy weights.
Among the Vermont findings:
-- 33 percent of high school students drink alcohol, down from 35 percent in 2011.
-- 65 percent of adults drink, compared with the national rate of 53 percent.
-- 19 percent of adults binge drink, compared with 17 percent for the entire country.
-- 13 percent of high school students smoke, down from 15 percent in 2011.
-- 3 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high school students have taken prescription drugs without prescriptions.
-- 7 percent of high school students have misused prescription drugs in the last month.
-- 24 percent of high school students use marijuana.