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Survey: More than 20% of teens on LI drive distracted

More than one-fifth of Long Island's teenage drivers either engage in extended text messaging while driving or read a text every time they drive, according to a national survey on distracted driving.

The survey, conducted jointly by a University of Michigan research group and automaker Toyota, interviewed 5,500 teen drivers and parents nationally, beginning in September 2012.

The release of the survey's findings come after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that one in five crashes in New York State are caused by distracted driving.

Cuomo shared the accident statistics when he announced a State Police crackdown on distracted driving that began July Fourth. The initiative is geared toward drivers who text behind the wheel, the governor said.

The survey by the University of Michigan Research Institute and Toyota found that 23 percent of Long Island teenage drivers have extended text message conversations while driving and that 21 percent of them read a text every time they drive.

Other findings regarding Long Island drivers, according to the survey:

44 percent of teens reported using handheld cellphones when they drive, compared to 53 percent nationally.

43 percent of parents of teen drivers said they use handheld cellphones when driving, compared to 60 percent nationally.

84 percent of teens say they drive with two or three teen passengers and no adults, which, according to the AAA Foundation, is associated with a doubling of a driver's risk of being killed in a crash.

To combat distracted driving in New York, state troopers are using Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles, which are built on higher than average platforms to make drivers who text easier to detect. The vehicles are patrolling highways statewide, Cuomo said Tuesday in Uniondale.

The effort will be funded by close to $1 million and ends Sept. 7, officials said.

Since the initiative began, State Police have issued more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving, said Col. Patricia Groeber, a State Police deputy superintendent field commander.

"We have a crisis of distracted driving," Cuomo said in a Newsday story published Tuesday. "It's getting worse; it's not getting better."

Cuomo said that texting while driving is especially apparent in young drivers, and with 43 percent of teens nationwide admitting to texting while driving.

He called it a "demographic wave crashing on society."

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