An alarming proportion of Ontario teens report that they have texted while behind the wheel of a vehicle, says a survey of students who drive, conducted for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey found that more than one-third of licensed Ontario students in Grades 10 to 12 — or an estimated 108,000 teens — reported having texted while driving at least once in the past year.
For Grade 12 students alone, 46 per cent of those who drive say they also texted at least once while operating a vehicle.
"This was a big surprise to us," said Robert Mann, a senior scientist at CAMH in Toronto. "We know that this is a very hazardous behaviour and some of the reports in the literature suggest that texting while you're driving can increase your chances of being involved in a collision by about 20 times or more.
"I think that texting is considered to be considerably hazardous because you have to actually type on the keyboard while you're driving," he said.
Such distracted driving is illegal across Canada, yet many adult and teen drivers continue to communicate by keyboard while in the driver's seat.
Yet the student surveys have found that the percentage of students who reported drinking and driving has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, he said.
"So by way of contrast, it's a bit of a shock to see that so many of them are taking this risk (texting)."