Study indicates distraction is a frequent factor in teen car accidents

A recent study shows that over half of teen car accidents may occur because of distractions such as cellphone use and personal interactions with passengers.

Accidents that involve teenage drivers are a common source of concern for parents and innocent motorists in Chicago. These drivers often have a disproportionately high risk of experiencing accidents. The Illinois Department of Transportation states that in 2013, teens between ages 18 and 19 had higher rates of involvement in fatal crashes, injurious accidents and minor accidents than drivers of any other age.

Some of these accidents may occur due to inexperience and other factors that are difficult to address. Sadly, though, research suggests that many happen because teens take needless risks while driving. According to one study, more than half of these accidents may involve distracted driving.

Observing teen distraction

According to CBS News, earlier this year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report that was based on an analysis of dashboard camera recordings. AAA researchers reviewed roughly 1,700 recordings that were taken in the vehicles of teen drivers just before crashes occurred. The researchers found that many of these crashes involved driver inattention.

The Huffington Post states that cell phones and passengers were the leading distractions. At least one of these two distractions was a factor in 27 percent of the observed accidents. However, teenagers were also caught engaging in various other distracting activities, including:

  • Looking at objects in the vehicle or outside
  • Dancing or singing along with music
  • Grooming
  • Reaching for objects inside the vehicle

CBS News states that the researchers observed some crashes in which drivers veered into other lanes or off the road. In one case, a driver looked in both directions for traffic but failed to notice the vehicle that he collided with. Troublingly, half of the drivers who were distracted with cell phones never even realized an accident was about to occur. These drivers didn't take evasive action or slow down, which could have resulted in more severe accidents.

Troubling implications

The researchers ultimately found that 58 percent of the moderate or severe accidents involved distracted driving. This represents a huge jump over other accepted estimates of the rate of distraction-related teen accidents. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has previously projected that distracted driving plays a role in 14 percent of teen accidents.

The rate of distracted driving that was observed in the study may not represent the general prevalence of this habit. However, according to The Huffington Post, the researchers note that the availability of dashboard camera footage allows for new insights into the factors involved in teen crashes. Other reports that rely exclusively on statements from witnesses and teen drivers might significantly underestimate the scale of the problem.

Danger to Illinois drivers

If these findings are reliable and over half of serious teen accidents involve driver inattention, this reckless behavior could cause thousands of crashes in Illinois each year. In 2013, teens between the ages of 16 and 19 were involved in 97 fatal crashes and 9,883 injury crashes. Based on the study results, over 5,000 of the injury crashes and 50 of the deadly crashes may have involved distraction.

When distracted driving accidents result in loss of life or serious personal injuries, victims may benefit from seeking legal advice. An attorney may be able to offer insights into the remedies that may be available and the process of pursuing needed compensation.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident, injury