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As texting causes more wrecks, young females mostly to blame

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Posted at 8:05 PM, Feb 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-17 07:48:57-05

More than 3,300 people were killed and 421,000 injured in auto accidents because of distracted driving in 2012.

That was a nearly 10 percent increase in injuries from the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A major culprit — texting while driving. Drivers are more likely to be messing with an electronic device if they were young (younger than 24) and female, according a NHTSA study using trained observers.

In 2004, 0.3 percent of young drivers were observed tapping their phones. In 2011, 3.7 percent were. Usage among older drivers also increased tenfold, from 0.1 percent in 2004 to 1.1 percent.

About 660,000 drivers are using their cell phone or an electronic device at any given daylight moment, according a NHTSA survey. Driver distraction causes nearly 1 in 5 auto crashes.

Texting while driving is banned in 44 states and the District of Columbia. The first law was passed in 2007 — the same year the iPhone was released.

Novice drivers are banned from texting in Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Arizona and Montana do not have a ban. Some cities in those states have their own laws.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that drivers:
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example.
- Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving.
- Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.