American Automobile Association (“AAA”) released an informative study about teenage drivers. Out of concern that
distracted teenage drivers cause wrecks, the AAA got permission from the
families of newly-licensed drivers to install recording devices in cars
these beginning drivers drove. The devices were set up to respond to triggering
events, “such as sudden braking or an abrupt turn.” The devices
took video, audio and accelerometer readings.
I represent people as a Cobb County car wreck lawyer, so of course these
statistics are of interest to me in terms of what I do as a car accident
attorney. But I am also a mom of two all-too-soon-to-be teenage drivers,
and that really made the study hit home for me.
AAA Distracted Teenage Drivers Report.pdf, was designed to examine newly licensed drivers. However, because a number
of the new drivers also had older teenage siblings, AAA wound up getting
additional results for these siblings, who were only slightly more experienced
drivers. In all, AAA obtained video and readings for 52 teenage drivers,
38 of whom were newly licensed.
AAA found that in 6.7% of the clips, the teenage drivers were operating
electronic devices. In these “distracted driving” clips, about
a third (2.3% of the total clips) involved a teenager talking on the cell
phone and holding the cell phone to his or her ear, but nearly two-thirds
(4.3% of the total clips) involved using an electronic device in some
According to AAA: “Females were twice as likely as males to be using
an electronic device.” While girls were more likely to use an electronic
device, boys “were approximately twice as likely as females to turn
around while driving.”
The study also looked at other behaviors that resulted in distracted driving.
In the clips, the teen drivers adjusted the controls of the vehicles,
ate and drank, conducted personal hygiene, read, turned around, reached
for things in the car, and talked to people outside the vehicle.
The study also found that other passengers could be very distracting to
young teen drivers. When passengers were present, 12.2% of the driving
clips showed loud conversations. 6.3% of the clips revealed the teenagers
were engaged in horseplay.
The study revealed that in 45% of the clips, the drivers had been looking
away from the roadway in the ten seconds before right before the sudden
braking or abrupt turn. A third of the drivers looked away for one second
or less, and another third looked away for 2 seconds or less. Disturbingly,
the teen drivers who were using an electronic device looked away for a
full second longer during the critical ten seconds before the event.
The study revealed two very important facts that may help parents in establishing
rules for their teen drivers:
(1) The more teenagers, the more distraction. “Loud conversation
and horseplay were more than twice as likely when teens were carrying
multiple teenage peers,” than when they had only one teenage peer.
(2) Siblings and adults are less distracting. “the likelihood of
loud conversation and horseplay were markedly less likely” when
the driver had 1 sibling in the car, or when an adult or parent was also
in the car.
I know I plan to pull this study out when I talk to my kids about Fulton
County teenage drivers causing car wrecks because they get distracted
and take their eyes off the road. I can start with “no texting while
driving”, but this study gives me ammunition to explain why having
adults in the car is important, and why loud talking and horseplay can
be so dangerous.