Teen Drivers More Susceptible To Distractions Than Previously Thought: Report

The majority of vehicle accidents involving teen drivers are caused by driver distraction, commonly involving distractions caused by passengers or mobile phones, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety compiled data from nearly 7,000 videos from cameras mounted in vehicles of teen drivers and found that more than six out of 10 teen auto accidents were the result of distracted driving.

The data was presented in the March 2015 report, Using Naturalistic Data to Assess Teen Driver Crashes, involving a review of data on nearly 1,700 moderate or severe crashes occurred involving teen drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 years old.

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Researchers found that the number of teen accidents was four times higher than projected figures, initially based on police reports.

The most common distractions responsible for accidents involved passengers in the vehicles or the driver using a cell phone, which occurred 15% and 12% of the time respectively.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published last year revealed teens are texting quite often during driving, more than surveys originally reported. According to the study, more than four out of every 10 teens sent text messages or emailed while driving.

Other top reasons for distracted driving and accidents included looking at something inside or outside of the vehicle, singing or dancing to music while driving, drivers grooming themselves, or a driver reaching for an object.

The videos in the AAA study revealed the moments directly before each crash, with views of both the driver and a view out of the windshield. None of the crashes involved fatalities.

Overall 60% of the crashes occurred when there was no adverse weather. When passengers were present, the majority of the passengers, 84%, were also between 16 and 19 years old.

Distracted Driving and Passengers

Researchers report that driver inattention and decision errors, like failing to yield the right of way, running stop sign or driving too fast, were the most common errors made by teen drivers. These errors occurred in about 70% of all crashes.

Speeding accounts for roughly one-third of all fatal auto accidents involving teens drivers, and the rate has increased over the last decade, according to the findings of a 2013 State Farm study. The fatality rate among teen drivers has increased by three percent over the last 10 years.

In accidents where the vehicle left the road, drivers were found to have been looking away from the roadway for four-seconds. Comparatively, drivers took their eyes off the road for 2.5 seconds during rear-end crashes.

Researchers found a passenger was present in the car during one-third of the crashes.

Of the accidents  where passengers were in the car, one-quarter had one passenger in the car and 10% had two or more passengers. When two or more passengers were in the car they were significantly more likely to be texting or using the cell phone, making loud noise, or moving around in the vehicle than when only a single passenger was present.

A prior study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, indicated that teens are more susceptible to distracted driving than adults. Teens using a cell phone to send a text or dial the phone while driving were more likely to drift through yellow and red lights than adults using cells phones. Teens were also more likely to experience a crash as a result of distracted driving.

Teens have the highest auto accident rate of any group in the United States. Of the teens involved in the accidents in the study, more than half involved men. More men were involved in single car accidents than females, but more females were involved in vehicle to vehicle crashes than men.

The driver videos were obtained from Lytx Inc, a company that offers programs that use video to coach drivers in improving driving skills and reducing collisions.

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