At this point we’re all aware of the dangers of distracted driving, and we know that drivers of all ages engage in this reckless behavior. In fact, the phenomenon has become so prevalent that “Distracted Driving” was named the word of the year in 2009 by Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary. Still, it seems as though being aware of the potential danger does not preclude us from taking significant risks – especially for younger drivers.
While we all occasionally eat while driving (or play with the stereo or talk on our cell phones), the numbers indicate that younger drivers are more apt to drive distracted than other age groups. In March of 2015, AAA released the most comprehensive investigation yet into distracted driving among teenagers. Their research found that roughly 60% of car crashes involving teenagers also involved distracted driving (more than 4x higher than previous estimates), with the leading causes being interacting with other passengers (15%), using a cell phone (12%), or looking at something inside the vehicle (10%).
Researchers were assigned the arduous task of viewing nearly 1,700 videos recorded from inside the vehicle of teenagers involved in car crashes. More specifically, they analyzed the six seconds that preceded the event to determine if distraction played a role in the crash. Here are a few of the particularly troubling conclusions based on AAA’s research:
- Drivers using their cell phones had their eyes on their devices for an average of 4.1 of the final 6 seconds preceding the accident.
- Drivers using a cell phone in any capacity failed to react (applying the brakes or steering out of the way) before impact in more than half of rear-end accidents.
- Distraction played a role in 89% of road departures and 76% of rear-end accidents.
- Passengers were present in 36% of all crashes, and 84% of these passengers were between the ages of 16-19.
According to President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Peter Kissinger, “The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized.” He further states that the situation is being exacerbated by the relative inexperience of these drivers. This isn’t to say that older drivers can safely drive while distracted, but rather, because these young people are still learning the ropes of motor vehicle safety, their lack of experience is compounding the already-lethal risks of driving distracted.
AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet stated, “AAA recommends that state laws prohibit cell phone use by teen drivers and restrict passengers to one non-family member for the first six months of driving.” Currently, 33 states – including Texas – have laws curbing the use of cell phones among teenage drivers, but only 18 of these have passenger restrictions that align with AAA recommendations.
According to AAA, teenagers already have the highest accident rate in the US, having been involved in nearly 1 million accidents in 2013, which resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths across the country. Their inexperience, coupled with their tendency to drive distracted, is a major concern for everyone on the road, whether we have children or not. Therefore, it is imperative that parents and instructors alike stress the importance of maintaining focus at all times while driving.
Below is a compilation video of just a few of the recorded accidents that is available on the AAA website. Although it appears as though none of the drivers were seriously injured, it can still be a bit hard to watch, so please do so at your own risk.
Chan, C. (2015, March 26). Terrifying video shows just how distracted teens can be when they drive. Sploid. Retrieved from http://sploid.gizmodo.com/terrifying-video-shows-just-how-distracted-teens-can-be-1693889379
Green, M. (2015, March 25). Distraction and teen crashes: Even worse than we thought. AAA Newsroom. Retrieved from http://newsroom.aaa.com/2015/03/distraction-teen-crashes-even-worse-thought/