Good news on the teen front: A new study shows fewer of them are smoking, drinking and fighting. Unfortunately, more of them are texting while driving, which can be just as hazardous as the other vices. Maybe worse.
It means parents, police and others who care about keeping kids alive still have a lot of work to do.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that American teens are smoking, drinking and fighting less. But a study found that teens are texting behind the wheel more and spending a lot of time on video games and computers. While too much screen time can boggle the brain and should be monitored, texting while driving is a much more serious issue.
It's a behavior that falls between life and death.
Students are getting a glimpse of that while participating in AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign. Students sitting in a "texting-while-driving simulator" have an opportunity to try out their texting prowess while trying to navigate on a highway.
The lesson is a harsh one, and has thus far convinced 5 million students across the country to sign a pledge to stop texting while driving.
The education must continue. Statistics show that more than 200,000 accidents in 2012 were the result of texting while driving. "Driving While Intexticated" is now the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers. Parents harping on their kids to refrain from this dangerous behavior isn't enough, especially since parents and other adults, too, are often guilty of doing the same thing.
That's what makes efforts like the "It Can Wait" campaign important.
Police are right to crack down, too, because strict enforcement and tougher penalties can also be a deterrent. Texting-while-driving convictions now add five points to your license.
Young and new drivers guilty of texting while driving will have their license suspended for 60 days on their first conviction, with a 60-day revocation then for any additional conviction within six months after the initial suspension.
Less smoking, drinking and fighting in the teen ranks bodes well for their future. No texting while driving will be one safeguard to ensure that they have a future.
-- The Utica Observer-Dispatch