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A popular anti-cell phone bumper sticker says: “Shut up and drive!”
If you own the sticker, stop reading because what follows will drive you nuts.
Just more than a third of Virginia drivers surveyed admit they have sent text messages while driving, making this the sixth most active state for the controversial habit, according to a national survey released Tuesday.
Nationally, 28 percent of those surveyed acknowledged they have typed with the keypads of tiny cell phones while heading down the road.
Interestingly, a clear majority of those surveyed — 78 percent — said they think the practice should be illegal.
The worst offenders are apparently found in South Carolina, where 40 percent said they were guilty of DWT, driving while texting. The least troublesome were in Arizona.
About one in four of those surveyed in North Carolina admitted to the practice.
Overall, the national survey found two age groups that most often let their fingers and thumbs do the talking — and not just while driving. They are teens and young adults, defined as 20 to 29 years old. Eighty-five percent of both groups say they text-message, the study found.
Teens also are the most prolific at texting.
The survey found that one in three teens who text send more than 500 messages a month. About two-thirds of them said that if they couldn't text, it would have a negative effect on their lives. Most of them send texts more often than they make phone calls.
The online survey of 4,820 people was commissioned by Vlingo Corp., a company based in Cambridge, Mass., that develops and markets voice-recognition software that can be used as a substitute for texting. The survey was conducted by Common Knowledge Research Services, of Dallas, in January, February and March. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.41 percentage points.
"We decided to make it public because we had the same reaction that others did," said Dave Granna, CEO of Vlingo. "These are stunning findings.... We think it bodes poorly for driving safety in the coming decade."
Text-messaging while driving is widely condemned by public safety officials as a dangerous habit.
"Don't do it," said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. "Texting falls into one of those driving distractions that we are constantly lecturing against."
Virginia legislators passed a new law last year that limits cell phone use for teens but stopped short of banning text messaging for anyone.
In 2007, the General Assembly banned drivers who hold provisional licenses — mostly teens — from talking on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle except while parked or in an emergency.
Two other bills were introduced earlier this year to outlaw driving while texting, but both were set aside for further study.
"There are more and more distractions that drivers face every day," Geller said. "If it's not texting, it's the radio or iPods or adjusting the global positioning equipment or eating.
"You can't multitask and drive at the same time. It's a deadly combination."