The most comprehensive research ever conducted into crash videos showing teenagers behind the wheel has found significant evidence showing that distracted driving is likely a much more widespread issue than previously thought. The video analysis, released this week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, revealed that that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. That level is four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.
“Access to crash videos has allowed us to better understand the moments leading up to a vehicle impact in a way that was previously impossible,” said Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs for AAA Wisconsin. “The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized.”
Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied, including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes. NHTSA previously has estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes.
The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included:
· Interacting with one or more passengers: 15 percent of crashes
· Cell phone use: 12 percent of crashes
· Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent of crashes
· Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9 percent of crashes
· Singing/moving to music: 8 percent of crashes
· Grooming: 6 percent of crashes
· Reaching for an object: 6 percent of crashes
“Passengers and cell phones were the most common forms of distraction given that these factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers,” said Jarmusz. “The situation is made worse by the fact that young drivers have spent less time behind the wheel and cannot draw upon their previous experience to manage unsafe conditions.”
Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. About 963,000 drivers age 16-19 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2013, which is the most recent year of available data. These crashes resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths.