As the parent of a 2-year-old and 4-month old, I have many years to go until this problem crops up in our house. But I know many of our listeners have teen drivers on the roads and this study might by scary.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the most comprehensive research ever conducted into crash videos of teen drivers has found significant evidence that distracted driving is likely much more serious a problem than previously known. The data show distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times previous estimates, which were based on police reports.

Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders.  NHTSA previously has estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes. According to AAA, 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

Meanwhile, the video research provided hard evidence on exactly what was happening before a crash:

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

“This study shows how important it is for states to review their graduated driver licensing and distracted driving laws to ensure they provide as much protection as possible for teens,” continued [Emily] Mosher.

If that's not enough, they also released a compilation of teen driver vehicle crashes caused by driver distraction. Some of these are really scary because it all happens so quickly. It doesn't take long for disaster to take hold:

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