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Study of Teen Driver Crash Videos Finds Distraction Rampant

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AAA InfographicA new study finds that there is more distracted driving than was previously thought, reports ABC NewsThe study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based its conclusions on the analysis of almost 2,000 crash videos made by cameras mounted in vehicles driven by teen drivers, ABC writes. The footage was shot just before the car accidents took place.

AAA writes in a press release that this study, the most comprehensive one ever done of crash videos involving teens, found that distracted driving was “a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe crashes.” Researchers said distraction was involved in 58% of the car accidents studied, which included 89% of roadside-departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes. Before this study, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had estimated that only 14% of teen driver accidents involved distraction, AAA writes. Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said, “The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized.”

This study was unusual, ABC reports , because it is rare that researchers have access to crash videos that show the vehicle before the crash plus the surrounding roadway. Among the distracted behaviors researchers saw in the crash videos were texting and talking on cellphones, changing radio stations, and grooming, ABC writes. The most common forms of distraction according to the study are interacting with one or more passengers (15%), using a cellphone (12%), looking at something in the vehicle instead of at the road (10%), looking at something outside the vehicle other than the road (9%), and singing and/or moving to music (8%), AAA writes. Grooming took place in 6% of the crashes, as did reaching for an object.

Teens have the largest crash rate of any group in the US, AAA writes, with about 963,000 drivers ages 16-19 involved in crashes reported by police in 2013. AAA suggests that parents, who play a critical role in preventing distracted driving, create a parent-teen driving agreement. The group gives an example of one online. AAA also offers a comprehensive driver education program. You can learn more about that at

It is very important, AAA writes, for states to review their graduated driver licensing (GDL) and distracted driving laws, to provide as much protection as possible for teens, said Matt Nasworthy, Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Consultant. GDL laws make it easier for new drivers to get experience in a “relatively safe” environment by presenting their exposure to risky conditions, AAA notes. It urges states to implement laws that prohibit cellphone use by teen drivers, and to restrict passengers to one non-family member during a teen’s first six months of driving. Up until now, 17 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted such laws, ABC writes.


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