Published: Aug 03, 2010 6:27 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 03, 2010 3:23 PM EDT

TAMPA, Fla. -  Although 84 percent of teen drivers know distracted driving is dangerous, almost nine in 10 teenage drivers say they have done it anyway, according to a recent survey by AAA and Seventeen magazine.

The recent survey is featured in the September issue of Seventeen magazine. The results are based on a survey conducted in May of nearly 2,000 male and female teen drivers ages 16 – 19. Seventeen magazine and AAA set out to discover what risky behaviors teen drivers were engaging in while behind the wheel—and how they justify this dangerous behavior.

Texting while driving is among the riskiest of common driving distractions. Teen drivers are still developing safe driving skills and should limit unnecessary risks. Nonetheless, the survey showed teens who text while driving sent, on average, 23 text messages while driving in the past month. Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes that involved a distracted or inattentive driver and more than a half million were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Aware of the dangers, 73 percent of teens admit they have adjusted their radio/CD/MP3 player, 61 percent have eaten food, and 60 percent said they've talked on a cell phone while driving. Teen drivers justified their actions and said they think it’s okay to engage in these distractions because: 41 percent think their action will only take a split second; 35 percent don’t think they’ll get hurt; 34 percent said they’re used to multitasking; and 32 percent don’t think anything bad will happen to them.

"Sure, it’s good so many teens are aware that their distracted driving habits are not safe and endanger their lives and those of their friends, but what is not good, is the fact that so many teens drive distracted anyway," said Leticia Messam, manager, AAA Traffic Safety Programs. "Our biggest challenge is to find the right tools and messages to get them to stop driving distracted."

Even as passengers, teens worry about distracted driving, with nearly four out of 10 (38 percent) saying they have been afraid they were going to get hurt because they were the passenger of a distracted driver. More than one-third of teen drivers (36 percent) believe they have been involved in a near-crash because of their own or someone else’s distracted driving.  

"Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teen drivers, especially when coupled with their lack of driving experience," said Messam. "It’s imperative teen drivers – like all drivers – remain focused behind the wheel at all times. AAA is pleased to partner with Seventeen to spread the anti-distracted driving message and help keep teen drivers safe."   A driver who takes their eyes off of the road for two seconds doubles their risk of getting into a crash, according to AAA. On September 17, Seventeen magazine, AAA and the Department of Transportation will ask everyone to save a life and participate in the Seventeen Two-Second Turnoff Day by taking two seconds to turn off their cell phone before driving. Instead of spending two seconds to look away from the road while distracted driving, use those two seconds to turn off cell phones before getting behind the wheel.   For more information on keeping teens safer on the road, visit AAAExchange.com