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New Report: Teens Still Driving Distracted Despite Laws

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As state lawmakers approve a bill that bans reading texts while driving, new numbers released by the federal government show teens are still distracted behind the wheel.

As Gigi Barnett reports, there’s a new national effort to cut the crashes down.

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation calls distracted driving a deadly epidemic, especially among teens.

The report shows 63 percent of drivers under the age of 30 admit to using a handheld phone behind the wheel, and 30 percent say they’ve sent text messages while driving.

“I completely agree with this, ’cause I’ve had several friends who have been in car accidents,” said driver Mary Hanemayer.

Now, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is launching a national campaign using the department’s website and radio and television commercials to reach teens.

This comes days after state lawmakers approved a bill that would put more teeth into Maryland’s distracted driver laws, closing a loophole in a law passed two years ago that only banned writing texts while driving. Now reading them would be illegal, too.

“They’re righting a wrong ,” said Ragina Averella, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We just feel that it’s a natural inclusion. Receiving, reading, writing a text message–it’s all a transaction. Someone’s not sending one and not expecting a response. We’re happy to see that the legislatures are getting it right.”

But the bill does allow checking a GPS application on a smart phone.

Under the current law, drivers caught texting while behind the wheel could face a $500 fine.

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