Teens Who Use Smartphones While Driving Also Likely To Speed, Drive Under Influence: Study

New research suggests that teenagers and young adults who talk and text on smartphones while driving also are more likely to engage in riskier, more life threatening driving behaviors, such as speeding and driving while impaired.

In a study published last month in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, researchers surveyed novice German drivers with an average age of 21 years old, finding that those who partake in handheld texting and talking on smartphones while driving are twice as likely to be involved in or cause a crash.

In the United States, Motor vehicle accidents have become the leading cause of death among teens and young adults, ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 99,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years are injured every year in car crashes, while nearly 2,000 young drivers are involved in fatal vehicle collisions, with many experts contributing the crashes to distracted or risky driving behaviors.

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The team of researchers led by Tim Jannusch, at the Institute for Insurance Studies of TH Köln in Germany, analyzed survey responses from 700 young, new drivers to examine the prevalence of certain distracted driving behaviors involving smartphones and infotainment systems in modern vehicles. The data was then used to assess the likeliness to engage in more dangerous driving activates.

Approximately 62% of survey respondents between the ages of 19 and 24 years old reported routinely reading and responding to text messages while operating a vehicle. While less common, 24% of male and 19% of female participants reported talking on a hand-held phone while driving, with many participants self-reporting they often hide their phones during conversations because they know it is illegal.

Almost 63% of respondents reported regularly interacting with their smartphone’s music application to change or adjust music, while 65% reported having engaged in this distracted driving behavior within the last 30 days.

Researchers used this data to carry out a correlation analysis and correspondence analysis on the basis that those who reported intentionally engaging in illegal use of handheld devices were significantly more likely to engage in driving behaviors that could result in potentially fatal consequences, such as speeding, risky lane maneuvers or driving impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The study data found a strong correlation between driving about 12 miles per hour over the speed limit in urban areas and talking on a cellphone. Researchers were able to determine novice drivers using a handheld devices for talking and texting were twice as likely to be involved in or cause a motor vehicle accident when compared to older, more experienced drivers.

Drivers changing or adjusting music are still at risk of being involved in a crash due to visual, cognitive and physical distraction. However, this group scored lower on the risk of being involved in riskier driving behaviors than those using handheld devices for calls and texts.

Researchers stated that because vehicles are equipped with stereo systems that can be interacted with while driving, new drivers may not perceive music-related activities as dangerous.

While many nations have adopted policies preventing the use of handheld devices, the study outlines a series of recommendations for policy makers and law enforcement to increase the perception of certainty, swiftness and severity of punishment for new drivers using smartphones, and for insurance companies to offer financial incentives.

Distracted driving, which includes texting while driving, has become such as widespread epidemic across the United States that officials estimate 95% of all roadway crashes are caused by human error, with the majority caused by a distraction shortly before the collision.

A study published in April 2020, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests supervised practice and safe driving instruction during the learner period could have a direct impact on the reduction in teenage automobile crashes, indicating the supervision and reinforcement of not speeding and putting the phone down lowers risky driving behavior among novice drivers.


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