Parents are well aware of the fact that teenagers have particularly dangerous habits when driving. From changing their clothes to talking on their cellphones and even doing homework, the issue has great ramifications. Safety researchers investigating car crashes and their contributing factors have revealed that distractions (cellphone usage and talking to passengers) play a far greater role than previously thought.
Distracted driving, researchers reveal, is the culprit for four times as many car crashes as previous police estimates had suggested. Safety specialists came to these conclusions after carefully analyzing video footage which revealed the actions of drivers in the few moments preceding a car crash. In 58 percent of the cases, distractions were a contributing (if not causing) factor of the crash.
The videos that the AAA foundation for Traffic Safety obtained showed precisely what drivers were doing seconds before a massive impact. Normally, such footage is particularly difficult to obtain, yet with the help of Lytx Inc., the foundation was given access to footage of both what was happening inside the car and on the road. More than 6,842 videos were viewed and in the case of 1,691 videos, either crashes or hard-braking events were captured.
During the six seconds which led up to the crash, distractions were involved in 58 percent of cases. This percentage is four times larger than the 14 percent figure that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had suggested.
A breakdown according to distraction type showed that interactions with other passengers inside the car had occurred before 15% of the crashes, while cellphone usage and searching for something inside the car came close (with 12 percent respectively 10 percent of crashes). Other distractions included singing, moving to music, grooming or reaching for objects.
The same video footage revealed that, during those 6 seconds before the crash, teenagers were distracted (and their eyes were off the road) for approximately 4.1 seconds. Moreover, when handling cellphones, teenagers could neither brake nor steer as the impending collision drew closer. Researchers concluded that using cellphones significantly impaired a teenage driver’s reaction time as compared to other types of distractions.
The foundation’s CEO and President, Peter Kissinger, added that the video footage obtained represented irrefutable evidence that teenage drivers were significantly distracted before crashes and that the figures previously made public had not accurately reflected the phenomenon.
“Teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized,”
One of the videos captured a teenage boy attempting to navigate a rain-slicked road while talking on the cellphone. One hand was on the steering wheel while the other was holding the cellphone to his ear. After crossing an entire lane of traffic, the boy’s car runs off the road and stops near the railroad tracks running alongside the road. Another such video captured a lonely driver texting on a cellphone and slowly drifting on the opposite lane, striking down a mailbox.
One of the conclusions that the AAA drew was that licensing requirements should be altered as to restrict the passenger number allowed in cars driven by teenagers. Given the fact that teenage drivers represent the age group with the highest crash rate, the AAA’s estimates seem anything but far off and their recommendations may be worth addressing, considering the 963,000 crashes that drivers aged 16 to 19 were involved in only in 2013.