April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and, with the arrival of spring, motorists are getting back out on the roads, including many younger drivers heading out for spring break-related fun. But be aware: Teenage drivers have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States, and in 2013 963,000 drivers, ages 16 through 19, were involved in police-reported motor vehicle crashes, with over 380,000 injuries. How can we reduce these numbers?
Working with researchers from the University of Iowa, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examined teen crashes in a program where drivers, ages 16 through 19, volunteered to be recorded behind the wheel via the DriveCam in-vehicle video camera system, retaining six seconds of video prior to the crash. We received over 6000 “naturalistic data” videos with 1,691 clips selected for research. These were primarily single-vehicle crashes due to loss of control, road departure events, and rear-end and angle collisions. Analyzing the data, the Foundation discovered that distracted driving played a role in 58% of all crashes overall, with the most frequent sources of distraction being:
- Interacting with passengers, where passengers were present in 36% of all crashes and the majority were in the same age range, 16-19, as the driver.
- Cell phone use, which accounted for 12% of crashes. Drivers using phones looked away from the road excessively; in the crash videos, an average of 4 seconds out of the final 6 seconds!
- Decision errors, such as failing to yield the right of way, running stop signs, and driving too fast, are also large causes of crashes, involved in 66% of cases.
From the data, it is clear that driver education and training is needed to teach younger drivers to pay more attention when driving, and avoid becoming distracted or taking excessively long glances away from the road. Parents should set the appropriate example by not texting and driving as well as encourage their teens to do the same. The AAA Foundation and AAA have also developed several resources for teen drivers, including Driver-ZED, SmartStart, and AAA’s TeenDriving portal.
To see an example of the DriveCam footage that the Foundation received, take a look at the video below.