Seconds Before the Crash

Distracted Driving Worse Than Previously Reported

A Young Woman Sits in Her Car While Reading Her Phone

It is well known that cell phones increase the risk for teen drivers. That risk is made worse because young drivers cannot draw upon past driving experience to manage unsafe conditions.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – The most comprehensive research ever conducted into teen crashes found substantial evidence that distracted driving is a much more serious problem than previously known, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Video analysis finds that distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. This is four times as many crashes as official estimates based on police records.

Researchers at the University of Iowa analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle recording devices. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58% of all crashes studied including 89% of road-departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) previously estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14% of all teen crashes.

Among the key findings in the study were that drivers manipulating their cell phone (calling, texting, or other uses) had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 seconds out of the final six seconds leading up to the crash. Researchers also measured reaction time in rear-end crashes and found that teen drivers using a cell phone failed to react more than half of the time before impact, meaning they crashed without braking or steering.

It is well known that passengers and cell phones increase the risk for teen drivers. That risk is made worse because young drivers cannot draw upon past driving experience to manage unsafe conditions. Utah’s graduated driver licensing law addresses the most common causes of teen crashes and gives teens time to practice in a safe environment.

“Parents can play a vital role in preventing their teens from engaging in distracted driving and learning to be a safe driver,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “Before parents begin practice driving with their teen, they should create a parent-teen driving agreement that includes strict ground rules related to distracted driving.”

AAA offers help for parents of young drivers at www.TeenDriving.AAA.com. There, parents can find a comprehensive driver education program where teens can learn specifically how using a cell phone affects driving abilities and increases crash risk. A full research report and B-roll video of teen driver crashes is available on the AAA Foundation’s website: www.AAAFoundation.org.

AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services, and consumer discounts to more than 4.2 million members. AAA has been a leader for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 115 years ago.

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