Researchers find teenage distracted driving is worse than originally thought

Recent research suggests that distracted driving plays a much larger role in teenage crashes than previously thought.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the federal government previously estimated that distractions played a role in just 14 percent of teen driver crashes. Motor vehicle crashes in Saint Peters, Missouri, and across the country are a significant threat to young drivers.

According to the Missouri Department of Insurance, more than 30 percent of traffic fatalities in the state involve people younger than 25. A recent study shows that distracted driving in these and other incidents may be a bigger factor than originally thought.

Dangerous distractions

This year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied approximately 1,700 in-vehicle videos to determine what took place in the six seconds leading up to a motor vehicle accident involving a teenage driver. Researchers found that in 58 percent of all moderate to severe incidents, distractions were present. The main types of behaviors included the following:

  • Interactions with another passenger: Involved in 15 percent of accidents
  • Use of a cellphone: Involved in 12 percent of accidents
  • Looking at something inside/outside the vehicle: Involved in 10 percent/9 percent of accidents
  • Singing or dancing to music: Involved in 8 percent of accidents
  • Grooming or reaching for something: Each was involved in 6 percent of accidents

The study determined that in a shocking 89 percent of situations in which the vehicle left the road, distractions were present.

Highlighting graduated license programs

One of the takeaways that the study's researchers highlighted is the importance of states having graduated license programs to give novice drivers more experience on the road. Missouri has a very detailed program that requires hours of practice, sets curfews and restricts passengers for people who hold permits and intermediate licenses.

Missouri distracted driving laws

Distracted driving laws are also key to deterring motorists of all ages from engaging in the behavior. In Missouri, drivers who are 21 or younger are not permitted to text while driving. However, the state does not address other key issues, such as using handheld devices for other purposes or the dangers of even using hands-free devices.

What parents can do

Parents should get involved with teenage drivers, teaching them about the dangers of distracted. Regardless of Missouri's laws, parents should restrict young drivers from using cellphones at all while behind the wheel. Further, parents are encouraged to have their teenagers sign an agreement that promises to avoid distracted driving or calling out the behavior when witnessing it.

Distracted driving has been proven to be dangerous, causing a significant numbers of injuries and deaths every year. People who have questions concerning the matter should consult with an attorney.