A driving instructor in Thunder Bay says a study that shows one third of Ontario high school students admit to texting while driving is surprising for only one reason — it's that the number wasn't higher.

Gerry Picard, owner of TheDrivingSchool .ca, said he sees people using their cell phones and driving way too often.

When new students come to his school, he takes away their phones to prove a point.

"When I see a text message come through I kind of flash it to them. I say 'hey you've got a text' and you can just see them, you know, itching to look at it,” he said.

“That's the problem that they're faced with when it comes to being in the car when it dings or vibrates or something.”

Dangerous Driving

A Thunder Bay driving instructor says he tries to get the message through to kids about the importance of not using their phones while driving by telling them stories of tragic incidents caused by distracted drivers. (Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press)

Picard says it's not just students with poor driving habits. Young drivers are learning them from older drivers too.

Youth do understand that driving and texting is dangerous, Picard said, but they've been constantly exposed to other people driving while distracted, so it's hard for them to break that habit.

"Being in a car with somebody on a cell phone — everybody does it now — and that's the biggest problem,” he said.

“I've asked that question many times: Have you ever been in the car where nobody's on their cell phone? Nobody puts their hand up, ‘cause they've all been in the car where somebody has been on the cell phone … texting or talking. That's what they've been exposed to.”

One student told him his mother was playing a game on her phone as she was driving him to school.

Picard said he tries to get the message through to kids by telling them stories of tragic incidents caused by distracted driving.

"We use a real approach, a real-life approach with the kids, and hopefully they take something away from it."

He added he also tries to instill better discipline in his students than older drivers might have when it comes to cell phone use.

Students are also encouraged to download apps that will read out text messages for them, so they know whether they have to pull over to respond, without physically checking their phones.