The latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released last week, revealed some troubling -- if not too terribly surprising -- facts.
Despite the warnings, the evidence and educational efforts, 60 percent of Vermont's high school seniors still admit to texting or e-mailing while behind the wheel.
According to the Department of Health's survey, more than 33 percent of high school students and more than 56 percent of high school seniors said that they engaged in the behavior.
According to the U.S. Government's Distracted Driving website, 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20, involved in fatal crashes, were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. "This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted," according to the site.
Furthermore, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when considering drivers in the 15-19 years old age group, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.
"Vermont state law prohibits texting while driving," Ted Minall, chief of the Governor's Highway Safety Program, told the Associated Press. "(A)nd educators and parents have a responsibility to promote a no-texting message."
He added that driving safely requires a vehicle operator's full focus. But really, that's just common sense.
And the reality is, we're not just talking about teens, here -- everyone is doing it.
Some more sobering facts to consider:
-- According to government statistics, in 2012, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, a 9 percent increase from the previous year.
-- According to the 2013 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, at any given daylight moment in the U.S., approximately 660,000 drivers are either using cell phones or manipulating an electronic device while driving. (This number has held steady since 2010.)
-- Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that "engaging in visual-manual subtasks" (like reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
It's research also shows that sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 5 seconds. If one was traveling 55 mph, that would be the equivalent of driving the length of a football field, blind.
-- A recent University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study found that a quarter of teen drivers respond to a text message once or more every time they get behind the wheel. Furthermore, 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit to extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.
Like we said, this isn't just a "teen" issue.
In this day and age, there's just too much technology at our fingertips -- be it car audio equipment, a cell phone, a GPS, a portable video device. Even without all of that, there's plenty to consider a distraction (a talking passenger, crying child in the backseat, food or drink, etc.).
What it really boils down to is that driving is a right, not a privilege. And part of earning that right means that anyone choosing to get behind the wheel should practice common sense and self-control.
While that text may seem important now, how important will it seem if the distraction leads to a fatal crash?
There are always exceptions to the rules, and emergencies can and will happen. But if the text can't wait, pull over. If you really need to consult the map or GPS, pull over. If you absolutely have to make that call, stop first.
It may sound corny, but the life you save may just be your own.