Teenagers do understand the dangers of using cellphones while driving -- but they still use them, new research has found.
Car crashes kill more teens each year than anything else, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Teenagers think about what they do behind the wheel in very different ways than we think about teenagers behind the wheel," said Marilyn Sommers, professor at University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing.
For the study, the researchers got 30 teenagers engaged in conversations on distracted driving.
Across the board, the teenagers said they understood the dangers of texting while driving, but they still engaged in the behaviour.
Some teens said they did not do it -- until the researchers dug a little deeper and found out what that really meant.
"The definition of 'texting while driving' is not the same for everyone," Catherine McDonald, assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing, said.
"For example, in their responses the teenagers would indicate that they did not text and drive, but then later would say something like, 'At a red light, I'll check my phone'," McDonald noted.
The interviewees made a distinction the interviewers had not.
The data also helped the researchers understand how teens differentiated between texting and social media use -- checking Twitter, for example, was not texting while driving.
Sommers called it a classification system, a continuum of sorts, whereby some actions are too dangerous to ever happen but others, though generally considered unsafe, fall into a grey area.
The study appeared in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.