Texting While Driving Surges Up 50% last year: survey By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Dec 8, 2011 10:48 AM CST 16 comments Comments In this Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, a phone is held in a car in Brunswick, Maine. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach, File) (Newser) – Despite 35 states now banning it, the practice of texting while driving continues to increase, according to new research. An observational study conducted at selected stoplights and intersections last year found that at any given moment, 0.9% of drivers were using a hand-held device; that's up from 0.6% the year prior. Overall, texting while driving was up 50% last year, with 18% of drivers saying they've sent texts or emails while behind the wheel. The numbers are even worse when it comes to younger drivers, with fully half of those aged 21 to 24 admitting to texting while driving. Most drivers also said they would answer a phone call while behind the wheel and then continue to drive, the survey found. "It is clear that educational messages alone aren't going to change their behavior," a safety advocate says. "Rather, good laws with strong enforcement are what is needed. Many drivers won't stop texting until they fear getting a ticket. The increase shows what an uphill challenge distracted driving remains." Recent programs involving increased ticketing in New York and Connecticut did significantly reduce distracted driving, the AP notes.