distracted teen

A teen not looking where he’s going in a clip from video surveillance of teen drivers conducted by AAA.


If you’re on the fence about letting your teen drive the family car, you won’t be when you see the results of a recent study by AAA. The study, detailed on Philly.com here, found that teens are too distracted to drive. Giving a teenager keys to a car is just not a great idea.

Out of  1,691 “moderate to severe,” non-fatal crashes involving teens between 2007 and 2013, 58 percent were caused by a distracted driver. Each accident was documented with cameras focused on the teen drivers, allowing researchers to see what the driver was doing in the in the moments before he or she crashed. Excerpts of those videos can be found here.

The main source of distraction was not a cellphone, as one might expect, but “interacting with passengers,”which accounted for 15 percent of distracted accidents. This conforms to prior studies that have determined that the likelihood of a teen getting into an accident increases with each additional passenger.

Phone distraction came in with a healthy second place, accounting for 12 percent of accidents. It was followed by looking at things, singing, grooming and reaching for an object.

In all accidents studied by AAA, 89 percent of crashes in which the car left the road and 76 percent of garden variety rear end collisions were the result of distraction.

As the Philly.com article points our, teenagers crash more than any other age group. In 2013, approximately 963,000 drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 were involved in police-reported crashes.  In that group, 2,865 died and 383,000 were injured.

In another study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers in that age group — 16 to 19 — were found to be three times more likely to die in a car crash than a driver older than 20.  From my perspective, this is a problem with an easy solution, and that solution is not necessarily Google-built self-driving cars.

I’ve long been in favor of is switching the drinking and driving ages, making alcohol consumption legal at 16, but making teens wait until they’re 21 to get behind the wheel. I don’t have the science to support a lower drinking age. It’s just a hunch that legalizing everyday behavior in an effort to make it less illicit might make it less attractive.

But keeping teens out of cars would absolutely save a lot of lives. That’s a fact.