- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A new report released this week shows North Dakota and South Dakota have the top two highest rates of high school-aged teens who admit to texting and driving.

The report, which surveyed 13,000 teens nationwide and was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week, found that about 61 percent of teen drivers grades 9 through 12 in South Dakota text and drive or send emails while driving. In North Dakota, the report found it was slightly over 59 percent.

The CDC said the national average is about 41 percent.

“We do it because it’s there,” 15-year-old high school student Cassidy Sieveke told the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1lm2YWm ). “I think it’s a bad thing, but it’s just something our generation has grown up with.”

The high percentage of teens who said they text or email while driving is concerning public safety officials.

“This is a behavioral issue and people tend to agree that it’s a dangerous behavior, but only when other people do it,” Lee Axdahl, South Dakota’s director of highway safety, told the Leader. “And in reality, those same people are guilty of texting and driving, too.”

Axdahl speculated that one explanation for the high rates might be that South Dakota is in the minority of states that allow 14-year-olds to drive.

“The wider universe of teenage drivers with restricted permits in South Dakota opens the doors to a wider sample to survey from,” Axdahl said.

South Dakota teens can obtain a learners permit at 14 that allows them to drive with an adult. Those who go 180 days without a violation can obtain a restricted permit, allowing them to drive alone.

In North Dakota and Montana, drivers need to wait until age 15 to receive a restricted permit.

A statewide texting while driving ban in South Dakota will go into effect July 1. The fine will be $100.

A ban is already in place in North Dakota. The fine there is also $100.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com