LICKING COUNTY, Ohio (WMCH) — Distracted driving is seen as a public health issue here in Licking County.

They say it’s because many teens and young adults are so dependent on their cell phones.

Between 2013 and 2017, 44 percent of distracted driving crashes in Ohio involved drivers under the age of 25.

“Having the phone is part of their everyday existence,” said George Grandstaff, co-owner of Licking Valley Driving School. “It’s like us having clothes. They have to have their phone.”

The dangers of distracted driving are always a concern for parents.

Kevin Parker said his daughter just received her driving permit, and it makes him fearful.

“That my daughter may not come home at night is my major concern due to something stupid like checking a text and not paying attention to the road,” said Parker.

People from the age of 15 to 25 have been in 612 distracted driving crashes in Licking County in the past four years, according to the Licking County Health Department, and 13 of those crashes were fatal.

“This is the biggest change I’ve seen in 30 years that are affecting youth,” said Grandstaff.

He said even while teaching kids how to drive responsibly, many of them are on their phones.

So, they had to change their approach.

“So, when they come into class here, we do ask them to put them in a basket, turn them off, and they don’t get them again until they leave four hours later,” said Grandstaff.

It’s the same message that the Licking County Health Department is pushing to teens.

They, along with state patrol officers, go to schools and engage with young drivers, showing and telling them about the dangers of distracted driving and the laws.

“The dependence on technology can really affect how you drive,” said John Craus, safety coordinator for the Licking County Health Department. “It’s not just texting, it’s talking to someone one the phone, maybe changing the song.”

Advice Parker wants all teens to hear.

“Your life is more important than any text message out there,” he said.