Study: Distractions present in majority of teen crashes

A new study reveals that dangerous driving among teenagers is much more dangerous than originally thought.

Distraction.gov, the federal government's website devoted to preventing distracted driving, reports that the leading cause of death for teenagers in this country is a traffic crash. In South Windsor and across the nation, many young drivers continue to engage in distracted behavior despite the known risks. In fact, a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that distractions played a role in more than half of all teen crashes that were either moderate or severe.

Key findings

Researchers used roughly 1,700 in-vehicle videos to analyze what happened in the six seconds leading up to a moderate to severe crash involving a teen driver. The findings included the following:

  • Distractions played a role in 58 percent of all incidents.
  • Distractions were a factor in 89 percent of events in which the car left the road.
  • Distractions were involved in 76 percent of incidents that resulted in a rear-end crash.

The findings are significant because previously, the AAA states, distractions were thought to have been a factor in just 14 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.

Types of distractions

While cellphone use is often thought of as a leading distraction, the study found that it ranked second in association with moderate-to-severe crashes. The leading factor, according to the study, is the driver interacting with someone else in the vehicle. Other types of distractions included singing to dancing to music, looking at something either inside or outside the vehicle and grooming.

Distractions alone are troubling, but they are often made worse when young drivers engage in them. Novice drivers lack the experience necessary to take control of unsafe conditions. Researchers stated that this study exemplifies why graduated license programs are important, giving drivers more experience on the road in a more controlled environment.

Connecticut laws

Across the country, states have implemented laws to prevent traffic fatalities and injures associated with distracted driving. In Connecticut, no driver is permitted to use a handheld device while behind the wheel. Further, any novice driver - defined as someone younger than 18 or with a learner's permit - is not allowed to use a hands-free device.

Connecticut's graduated license program

Connecticut also has a graduated license program in place. In order to obtain a learner's permit, an applicant must pass a road skills test as well as a knowledge test. Someone with a permit will have to log 40 hours of training behind the wheel and complete an eight-hour safe driving course before obtaining a full license.

Someone with a learner's permit is not allowed to have any passengers except for a driving instructor.

Even newly licensed teenagers are restricted. For example, most teens are not permitted to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless there is a valid excuse, such as employment. Further, passengers are restricted during the first six months.

Distracted driving is a serious issue and can lead to injuries and even death. People in Connecticut who have concerns over this issue should consult with an attorney.