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I am, as of this writing, 144 days away from never again being able to sleep soundly. That is when my 15-year-old daughter, as she delights in constantly reminding me, will receive her learner's permit. And every time she gets behind the wheel, I'll worry about the dangerous combination of teenage brain and 3,000-pound lethal weapon.

I'm not sure whether I should blame Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for adding to my anxiety or hug him for a timely lecture about the particular perils of distracted driving among teens -- behaviors such as chatting on cell phones, checking BlackBerry messages, and texting.

I'm leaning toward hug.

LaHood phoned me -- no, not in the car, although it is Bluetooth-enabled, and I confess to conducting interviews on the road -- in advance of the Transportation Department's second annual Distracted Driving Summit.

His message was chastening, for me as well as my daughter: "You can't drive safely with a cell phone in your ear or a BlackBerry in your hand. Put it in the glove compartment, because there's no call so important it can't wait."

The statistics about teens are frightening. The highest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were under the age of 20. One in four teens say they have texted while driving. Half of 12- to 17-year-olds say they've ridden with a texting driver. Half of cell-owning teens ages 16 to 17 -- are there any without? -- say they have talked on the phone while driving.

And here's why it's so dangerous .................................  
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Posted 1:43 PM

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