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OpinionColumnistsChristopher Leelum

Teens who text and drive blame the wrong people

Tickets issued to motorists accused of texting while

Tickets issued to motorists accused of texting while driving have increased 35 percent across the state from 2013 to 2014, state officials said. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2011 / Thomas A. Ferrara

Pardon me, other drivers obeying the law, but my mother needs to know when I'll be home for spaghetti. If I don't text her right now, she'll get mad at me.

At least that's the kind of reasoning used by many teens in a new study of texting and driving by Students Against Destructive Decisions and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Researchers found that 55 percent of teen drivers reported texting while driving because they felt the needed to update their parents. A quarter of them said that parents expect an answer within five minutes.

This reasoning seems to be a way for teens to shift the blame away from themselves. I know because I've done it.

My mom and my dad have told me that under normal circumstances they expect me to answer their texts within 10 minutes. That's fair. Obviously, if they know I'm driving, they make an exception, but if they don't know I'm driving, what should I do when I can't pull over? Admittedly, I've made the wrong decision before.

After those times when I answered while driving, it didn't take long to realize that any accident I might've caused or ticket I might've received would have been my fault.

Like me, many of those 55 percent of teens said they had an obligation to respond. But that reasoning is mostly unnecessary. The study found that 58 percent of parents "do not have set expectations on teens' response time." It's safe to assume that if parents knew their son or daughter were driving, that proportion would be 100 percent.

I shouldn't blame my parents for my acting on a misplaced sense of obligation. It's clear that getting my mom angry for not saying when I'll be home is much better than never coming home at all.

Christopher Leelum, a student at Stony Brook University, is an intern with Newsday and amNewYork.