AAA: Distracted Teen Driving Worse Than We Thought


Distracted driving is a huge problem on our roads today, but it’s an even bigger problem than many realized for teen drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distraction is a factor in 14 percent of all teen driver crashes, but a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety puts that number at 58 percent.  

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According to AAA, researchers looked at the 6 seconds that preceded a crash in 1,700 videos of teen drivers from in-vehicle event recorders. They found that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all the crashes, including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes.

Distracted driving impairs reaction time in a big way; the researchers found that teen drivers using a cellphone had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final 6 seconds before the crash. What’s worse, researchers also found that the distracted teens failed to react more than half of the time before impact and crashed without braking or steering.

The study reports that the most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included:

  • Interacting with one or more passengers: 15 percent of crashes
  • Cellphone use: 12 percent of crashes
  • Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent of crashes
  • Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9 percent of crashes
  • Singing/moving to music: 8 percent of crashes
  • Grooming: 6 percent of crashes
  • Reaching for an object: 6 percent of crashes

“This study shows how important it is for states to review their graduated driver licensing and distracted driving laws to ensure they provide as much protection as possible for teens. AAA recommends that state laws prohibit cellphone use by teen drivers and restrict passengers to one non-family member for the first six months of driving,” AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet said in a statement.

According to AAA, 33 states have laws that prevent cellphone use for teens and 18 states have passenger restrictions meeting the agency’s recommendations.

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