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Study: Adults more likely than teens to use phones while driving

Teenagers get a bad rap for being constantly glued to their phones.

But behind the wheel, it's adults who are most likely to pick up their iPhones to make calls, send text messages or respond to emails.

That's the conclusion of a new study by the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety. AAA found that adults between 25 and 39 are the age group most likely to report using their phone while driving, while those aged 19 to 24 were most likely to send texts and emails on the road.

Phone use while driving can lead to serious consequences at any age: In 2012, there were 3,383 vehicle crashes related to cell phone use in New Jersey, leading to nine deaths, according to the state Department of Transportation. And Pennsylvania saw 1,096 crashes involving drivers using phones last year, with eight fatalities, according to PennDOT.

Nationwide, 28 percent of motorists reported using their phone while driving regularly or fairly often, with 67 percent having used their phone in the past month, the study found.

But for young adults, those numbers were much higher: Forty-three percent of those aged 25-39 said they use their phone behind the wheel frequently, and 82 percent did so in the past month.

And 30 percent of people aged 40 to 59 said they use their phone frequently, ahead of the 27 percent of 19- to 24-year-olds and 20 percent of 16 to 18-year-olds who reported doing so.

AAA said 11 percent of people aged 19 to 24 reported texting and emailing regularly on the road, with 42 percent having sent such messages in the past month.

Ten percent of those 25 to 39 said they texted and emailed frequently behind the wheel, and 45 percent in that group said they had done so in past month. For teens between the ages of 16 and 18, 7 percent reported sending texts and emails regularly while driving, with 31 percent having sent such messages in the month prior.

"It is discouraging that cell phone usage picks up when drivers gain more experience, as using a phone can lead to dangerous distractions behind the wheel," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said in a statement.