Rod Shelffo
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AAA Study: 60% of Teen-Involved Crashes Caused By Distraction

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Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess the Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes

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Photo: AAA

Today, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of a study looking at the causes of accidents involving teens. The study analyzed video—captured by an on-board video recorder—from nearly 1,700 crashes involving teen drivers and found that six out of 10 moderate-to-severe crashes involving teens are at least in part caused by distracted driving.

“Access to crash videos has allowed us to better understand the moments leading up to a vehicle impact in a way that was previously impossible,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized.”


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Comparatively, police reports estimate that about 15% of all crashes involving teens are caused by distracted driving. In the AAA study, that number was found to be four times higher in the limited sample.

Surprisingly, the study found that use of cell phones was not the leading cause of distraction. Rather, interacting with other passengers resulted in an accident about 15% of the time, followed by cell phone usage resulting in an accident about 12% of the time. In instances where cell phones were to blame, it was found that drivers had their eyes off of the road for an average of about four seconds leading up to a crash, which resulted in zero corrective action (i.e. steering away from impact or braking) more than half of the time.

Other factors in teen crashes include: looking at something in the vehicle (10% of crashes), looking at something outside of the vehicle (9% of crashes), singing or moving to music (8% of crashes), grooming (6% of crashes), and reaching for something (6% of crashes).

“It is troubling that passengers and cell phones were the most common forms of distraction given that these factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers,” said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet. “The situation is made worse by the fact that young drivers have spent less time behind the wheel and cannot draw upon their previous experience to manage unsafe conditions.”

The full findings of the study, entitled Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess the Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes, can be found in .PDF form at AAA’s press site.


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  • Rod ShelffoContributor

    After four years in The Marine Corp, Rod formed a career at Hatfield Buick GMC that has spanned more than 25 years. He is married to Lori, has one daughter, Staci, and two grandkids, Kimberlyn and Kaden. He's an avid golfer and past president and active member of the Redlands Optimist Club.