Study: 6 in 10 Teen Driver Accidents Caused by Distraction


Alarming new research reveals teen driver distraction is a bigger problem than we all thought.

While previous research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated 14 percent of all teen driver crashes were attributed to distraction, this latest study from AAA – which analyzed some 1,700 crash videos – found that figure was closer to 60 percent.

Study authors affixed dash cameras to vehicles driven by nearly 6,850 teen drivers over the study period, and during that time, recorded 1,691 hard-braking events or crashes. The view on the videos allowed researchers to see not only outside the windshield, but also inside, to the actions of the 16- to- 19-year-old drivers in the moments just before impact.

The findings were deeply troubling.

They discovered that in 58 percent of teen auto accidents, drivers were distracted. This was particularly true in cases where the driver rear-ended another vehicle or ran off the road completely.

The two most common types of distraction were unsurprisingly: Talking to passengers and using a cell phone, the latter including texting, talking and reviewing messages.

Other noteworthy forms of distraction were:

  • Looking at something outside the window
  • Reaching for something inside the car
  • Looking away from the road to something inside the car
  • Singing and/or moving to music
  • Grooming

Some of the videos are extremely difficult for parents to watch. In one, we see a driver staring down at a glowing screen as he navigates a two-lane highway at night. With his eyes averted, he crosses into the opposing lane, leaves the road and slams into a mailbox.

In another video, a teen girl is seen turning her attention to her friend in an animated conversation when she must suddenly brake hard to avoid bashing into the back of a sport utility vehicle that had stopped for traffic ahead. We flash back to the camera on the teen girls, whose faces reveal complete shock.

Another video shows a teen boy talking on his phone while driving in the pouring rain. Suddenly, he crosses a lane of traffic on the slippery road, runs off the pavement and stops just second shy of parallel railroad tracks.

In those cases, the teens survived. Some walked away with no injuries. But you can see how quickly a scenario like that can end tragically. It’s one thing to read the statistics or even hear a report of a fatal crash on the news. It’s another thing entirely to watch the fear in the faces of those who are about to crash.

On average, those who were using cell phones just before a crash were found to have their eyes off the road for 4.1 seconds prior to impact. In many of those cases, the teen drivers did not even brake or steer away from the object they were about to hit. That lack of avoidance can serve to exacerbate injuries sustained in a crash.

It’s been well-established – even before this research – that teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any group of drivers in the country. In 2013, nearly 965,000 teens were involved in crashes reported to police. Many more instances of non-injury crashes or near-misses are never reported.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Cellphones, other distractions a major factor in majority of crashes involving teen drivers, March 25, 2015, By Joan Lowy, Associated Press

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Fort Myers DUI Injury Attributed to SAO Investigator, March 28, 2015, Naples Car Accident Lawyer Blog