Dangerous Distractions For New Drivers

Inexperience, distractions and speed are too often a deadly mix for young drivers – making traffic accidents the leading cause of death for teenagers.

As CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports, there's a new study that explains why and gives suggestions how to make our kids safer drivers.

The new report – produced by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety – reaffirms what parents have long understood: tightening controls on teenage drivers will save lives.

The study which compared the youngest drivers from Oregon and Ontario, Canada shows injury crash rates are 20 percent lower when 16 year-olds are not permitted to drive alone at night or carry other teenage passengers.

"It's not that these kids are bad," said AAA's Peter Kissinger. "It's just that their brains aren't wired to make the same kinds of decisions that we as adults do."

Distractions are dangerous for all drivers, but the youngest face the highest risks. Increasingly states have addressed the danger by adopting so-called graduated licensing programs – through which teens earn more freedom as they accumulate more experience behind the wheel.

Read AAA's teen driving report

But, the graduated licensing rules vary state by state. Only half get a "good rating" from the insurance industry. The other half are rated "fair" or "marginal" with Arizona's teen driving program rated "poor".

Driving instructor Bill Barnes says young drivers need to focus on the road and the risks to develop good driving habits.

"When you have passengers in the car particularly as new drivers, you're more easily distracted," he tells all of his students.

Many young drivers, however, are fascinated with text messaging, pagers and cell phones – and when they use them while driving, they continue to take chances.

"It's definitely still not as safe, but I can't live without my phone," one of those young drives, Katja Alexander, said with a laugh. "So I use it anyway."

But the risk is no joke, every year six thousand young people die on America's roads.
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