DEARBORN (WWJ) - New research has found that distracted driving among teenagers is a much more serious problem than previously thought.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says distracted driving is a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe crashes involving teen drivers -- four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.
In their study, researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied, including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has previously estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes.
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
AAA Michigan Public Affairs Director Susan Hiltz said the research confirms that passengers and cell phones are the two most prevalent distractions for teen drivers involved in crashes.
"The risk factors are compounded by the fact that young drivers have less experience behind the wheel," Hiltz said in a statement. "It's vital that parents take an active role in educating their teens about distracted driving. Coupled with strong graduated driver licensing and distracted driving laws, helping provide proper protection for teen drivers is a community-wide effort."
Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. About 963,000 drivers age 16-19 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2013, which is the most recent year of available data. These crashes resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths.
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