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Distracted teen drivers at increased risk for crashes

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New teenage drivers are more likely to become distracted while driving thereby increasing their risk for crashes, reports a study published January 2. Once they become comfortable driving, novice teen drivers do other tasks while driving such as using a cell phone, eating or looking away from the road, according to researchers from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. These tasks take the teens' full attention away from driving and make them more likely to crash or have a near miss.

“Novice drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk secondary tasks more frequently over time as they became more comfortable with driving,” said Charlie Klauer, Ph.D., first author of the study. “The increasingly high rates of secondary task engagement among newly licensed novice drivers in our study are worrisome as this appears to be an important contributing factor to crashes or near-crashes.”

Teen driving study details

Klauer and her colleagues reviewed driving information from two studies. One study included over 100 drivers between the ages of 18 and 72. The second study included 42 new drivers with an average age just over 16 years. The vehicles used in both studies were equipped with cameras and sensors for recording driving data.

New drivers who multitasked while driving significantly increased their chances of having a car crash or near crash. Their risk of a crash increased when they engaged in activities such as using a cell phone, eating or looking at a roadside object while driving. Experienced drivers increased their risk of an accident when they used a cell phone to text or dial a number while driving.

Driving safety tips for teens

The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends that parents and teens sign a driving agreement that includes the following rules:

  • no drinking and driving
  • always wear a seatbelt
  • no cell phone use or texting while driving
  • restrictions on driving at night
  • no driving if drowsy or tired
  • limits on the number of passengers

More information on teen driving and safety is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Consumer Reports.

The research article, Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes among Novice and Experienced Drivers, is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sources:

Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes among Novice and Experienced Drivers

New England Journal of Medicine study: Virginia Tech researchers find novice teen drivers easily fall into distraction, accidents

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