Texting while driving has become a greater hazard than drinking and driving among teens who openly acknowledge sending and reading text messages while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate that more than 3,000 teens die annually as a result of texting and 300,000 are injured, numbers that have surged with the rise of cellphones.

The habit now surpasses the number of teens who drink and drive.

About 2,700 young people die each year as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol. Physician Andrew Adesman and a team of Cohen investigators found that while driving between September 2010 and December 2011, among 8,947 teenagers aged 15-18 nationwide, an estimated 49 percent of boys conceded to texting while driving, and 45 percent of girls.

Texting also increased with age. Only 24 percent of 15-year-olds texted while driving, compared with 58 percent of 18-year-olds, data showed. "A person who is texting," Adesman said, "can be as impaired as a driver who is legally drunk." - Newsday