In surveys, most people say they think it is dangerous to use a smartphone while driving. In practice, that thinking holds only if someone else is doing the driving.

When you’re behind the wheel, the ping of a new incoming text, or the need to glance at a screen during any downtime, tends to override all good sense.

It’s that disconnect that will confront Augusta police as officers use a $5,000 grant to abate teen driving risks through programs at Cony High School. The programs, and subsequent enforcement efforts, will focus on wearing seat belts and driving while impaired as well, but distracted driving has emerged as the top threat to teens in motor vehicles, and it is proving to be a tough habit to break.

Texting while driving is now the leading cause of death and injury to teen drivers, according to a Newsday report on research at a New York hospital. The study estimated that more than 3,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries result annually from texting while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driving under the influence kills an estimated 2,700 teens a year and injures more than 280,000.

It should seem obvious that scrolling a screen or typing out a text doesn’t pair well with driving. And to most people it is obvious — around 80 percent of drivers say it is an extremely dangerous habit. That, knowledge, however, isn’t enough to keep almost half of drivers — give or take a few percentage points, depending on the study — from checking emails or updating Facebook while on the road. And those numbers hold true, more or less, across age groups, meaning adults are not setting the best example, even though many are quick to criticize the inattention of teen drivers.

Distracted driving has been a focus of law enforcement in Maine and nationwide in recent years. Maine is one of 39 states to ban texting while driving, and a first-time offense brings a $250 fine. The fine jumps to $500 for a second violation. Police everywhere, however, have found the laws difficult to enforce,

Texting while driving is a fairly new problem, and the effort against it even newer. It is encouraging that the CDC reports drinking among teen drivers has fallen by 54 percent in the last 22 years, the result of a steady and unrelenting education effort, paired with severe consequences for the worst offenders, to change habits.

The texting law has the consequences right, but it is going to take a lot to beat back the growing and powerful phone addiction.

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