Every Teen Driver With A Cellphone Should Read This Study On Distracted Driving (Adults Too)

By now it's been beaten into all of our heads that text messaging or otherwise farting around on a mobile phone while driving is a bad idea. Study after study shows that bad things are prone to happen when we take our eyes off the road and fixate them on our phones or other objects, but according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the problem is worse than previously thought. Far worse.

In what's being billed as the most comprehensive research ever conducted into crash videos of teen drivers, it was found that distraction as a whole was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe accidents. That's about four times as many as previously thought based on information obtained from police reports.

Distracted Teens

As part of the study, researchers looked at the six seconds leading up a to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers that had in-vehicle recorders. Distraction was found to be a factor in 58 percent of those crashes, which includes 89 percent of instances where the vehicle runs off the road and 76 percent of rear-end accidents (as in hitting the vehicle in front of you). Prior to the study, the NHTSA estimated that distraction was a factor in just 14 percent of all teen crashes.

Cell phone use was cited as the second most common form of distraction leading up to a crash, as it was cited in 12 percent of them. Interacting with others in the car took the top spot at 15 percent, followed by looking at something in the vehicle (10 percent), looking at something outside the vehicle (9 percent), singing and/or moving to music (8 percent), grooming (6 percent) and reaching for an object (6 percent).

"It is troubling that passengers and cell phones were the most common forms of distraction given that these factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers," said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet. "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."

Unfortunately for teens (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), studies like this could lead to more restrictions among teen drivers and changes to graduated driving licensing (GDL) laws. As it stands, 33 states prohibit cell phone use for teens and 18 states have in place passenger restrictions that meet the AAA's recommendations.

Teens may cry foul and point out that adults need to heed their own advice, and they'd be right. At the same time, statistically speaking, teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the U.S. In 2013, the most recent year of available data, around 963,000 teen drivers age 16-19 were involved in police reported crashes resulting in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 fatalities.

Whether you're a teen, parent of a teen, or just curious, you can check out the full report here.