Phones, other distractions a big problem for teen drivers

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AAA: Distracted driving a factor in 60 percent of teen crashes.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Distractions — especially talking with passengers and using cellphones — play a far greater role in car crashes involving teen drivers than has been previously understood, according to compelling new evidence cited by safety researchers. WASHINGTON (WNEW) — Distracted driving is to blame for nearly six out of ten crashes involving teens, which is four times more than originally thought, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A review of in-car video and audio recordings of teen drivers moments before they crashed found some kind of distraction — such as grooming, mobile-phone use or even dancing — was a factor in four times as many accidents than previously estimated, AAA, the organization formerly known as the American Automobile Association, said Wednesday. The distractions contributed largely to the drivers’ inattention to their surroundings and their failure to obey traffic signs and speed limits just before the crashes. The study is unusual because researchers rarely have access to crash videos that clearly show what drivers were doing in the seconds before impact as well as what was happening on the road. Coupled with strong graduated driver licensing and distracted driving laws, helping provide proper protection for teen drivers is a community-wide effort.” 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.

AAA was able to examine more than 6,842 videos from cameras mounted in vehicles, showing both the driver and the simultaneous view out the windshield. The foundation got the videos from Lytx Inc., which offers programs that use video to coach drivers in improving their behavior and reducing collisions. Before parents begin practice driving with teens, they should create a parent-teen driving agreement that includes strict ground rules related to distraction. Based on numerous crash investigations, the US National Transportation Safety Board recommended in 2011 laws preventing all drivers from sending text messages or using phones — even with hands-free devices.

AAA offers a comprehensive driver education program, where teens can learn specifically how using a cell phone affects driving abilities and increases their crash risk. The safety board specifically cited an August 2010 crash in which a 19-year-old GMC pickup driver sent or received 11 text messages in 13 minutes before hitting the back of a tractor-trailer.

Previously published research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which also uses cameras to gather data about real-world driving, showed that using a hand-held mobile phone or another portable device triples crash risk. Other forms of distraction observed in the videos included drivers looking away from the road at something inside the vehicle, 10 percent; looking at something outside the vehicle other than the road ahead, 9 percent; singing or moving to music, 8 percent; grooming, 6 percent; and reaching for an object, 6 percent. In one video released by AAA, a teenage boy is seen trying to navigate a turn on a rain-slicked road with one hand on the wheel and a cellphone held to his ear in the other hand.

The videos provide “indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized,” said Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president and CEO. Teen drivers using cellphones had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 seconds out of the final 6 seconds leading up to a crash, the AAA study found.

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