'Lives out there can be saved by not texting while driving'
EUGENE, Ore. -- A New York Medical Center study found that texting while driving has now surpassed drinking and driving as the leading cause of death for teen drivers, killing over 3,000 teens a year.
In spite of countless ad campaigns highlighting the dangers and penalties of using a cell phone behind the wheel, police departments across the nation are citing record numbers of drivers for breaking cell phone laws.
Since Oregon's cell phone ban went into effect in 2010, State Police have stopped over 22,000 drivers for using their cell phone while driving.
In 2013, Eugene Police issued a new record of over 950 cell phone citations.
State lawmakers doubled the maximum fine for texting and driving to $1,000 starting in January of 2014, and Eugene Police say they are on track to set a new record and break 1,000 citations by the end the year.
"There are lives out there that can be saved by not texting while driving," said teen driver Kameron Taylor.
Taylor is taking driving lessons at the Lane County Driving School. During every class, school owner Brad Folsom drives home the point that cell phone distractions can be deadly.
"If I'm watching a football game or something and the phone rings, I automatically turn down the TV," said Folsom, owner of the Lane County Driving School, "And that's what people are doing when they're behind the wheel. They're turning off their environment."
It is that lack of attention that makes texting or talking in a car such a hazard. There have been 13 deaths in Oregon over the last 5 years because of people illegally using their cell phone while driving.
"There's no call, there's no text, there's nothing that's important enough to answer and put yourself or somebody else at risk," said Folsom.
Folsom came up with a way to hold his students accountable - a promise wall students sign to vow never to use their cell phone behind the wheel.
"It'll always be a reminder when I get the text message," said student driver Kameron Taylor, "I'll be thinking about the promise wall, and maybe, you know, won't pick it up."
Drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to use a Bluetooth or hands-free device to talk while driving.
Here are a few useful phone apps to help those looking to curb the bad habit of using your cell while driving: