Report: Teen distracted driving occurs more than previously thought

A new study based on in-car recordings of teen drivers indicates that distraction may cause many more accidents than researchers previously believed.

Distracted driving has become a widely recognized danger, but it still causes a large number of accidents in Enola each year. To address this issue, Pennsylvania lawmakers have banned texting while driving and launched various safety campaigns to discourage driver distraction. Still, in 2012, more than 14,000 crashes in the state involved distracted driving, according to state Department of Transportation data.

Distraction can be especially dangerous for younger drivers, since they are inexperienced and inclined to misjudge risks. For this reason, numerous initiatives have focused on reducing distracted driving among this age group. Unfortunately, new research reveals that distraction still causes many accidents among teenagers and may be more prevalent than previously believed.

A common accident cause

The Huffington Post states that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety based the study on dashboard camera recordings of teenage drivers. Researchers surveyed more than 1,700 recordings that were taken just before crashes occurred. They reported the following troubling findings:

  • Distraction was a contributing factor in 58 percent of the accidents that were classified as moderate to severe.
  • Passenger interactions, which played a role in 15 percent of crashes, were the most common form of distraction.
  • Cell phone use was the second most common diversion, contributing to 12 percent of accidents.

The overall rate of distraction that researchers observed is significantly higher than past estimates. Previously, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that 14 percent of teen accidents involved distraction.

In 2013 alone, over 960,000 teenage drivers were involved in accidents that occurred in the U.S. and were reported to police. If the study's findings are reliable, distracted driving may have played a role in more than half of these crashes. Distraction may also have contributed to many of the 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths that occurred in these accidents. This means that distraction is a significant source of concern for teen drivers and anyone sharing the roads with them.

Preventing teen distraction

Troublingly, another recent study suggests that teenagers often fail to understand the dangers of certain distractions. Teenagers may recognize notorious distractions, such as texting and cell phone use, as risky. However, according to National Public Radio, teen drivers report engaging in numerous other activities that may be just as dangerous. These include changing clothes and contacts, applying makeup and doing homework.

Fortunately, the same study shows that interactive activities can teach teenagers to better appreciate the dangers of multitasking while driving. Additionally, state laws can help deter risky behaviors. Pennsylvania laws currently address two of the worst distractions that were identified in the study. Teens are restricted from driving with passengers while they have their intermediate licenses. Like all drivers in the state, teens are also banned from texting while driving.

These laws may discourage some of the most frequent causes of distraction-related accidents. Still, additional efforts may be needed. Parents should warn their teens of the dangers of all potential distractions, including ones that are not explicitly outlawed. Adults should also focus on modeling safe driving behaviors in front of young drivers.

Help after accidents

Unfortunately, many accidents involving distracted teenage drivers also harm passengers or other road users. In these situations, accident victims may be able to seek compensation for their injuries. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving an inattentive or negligent young driver should consider seeking legal advice. An attorney may be able to help an injury victim understand his or her rights and potential legal options.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident