Teen Driver Behavior Strongly Relate to Crash Risk

Actually, if you’re reading this, it’s not a surprise to know that teen drivers are already at a high risk of being involved in a collision, or that what they do behind the wheel affects that risk.  But now there’s even more research to confirm this, and to possibly guide preventive efforts.

Using video cameras installed in vehicles driven by teens ages 16-19, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety captured almost 1,700 actual crashes, which were then carefully reviewed to determine what factors were involved.  Here’s some of the key findings:

  • The driver was found to have been driving too fast for conditions in 79% of single-vehicle crashes; following too closely in 36% of rear-end crashes, and failed to yield to another vehicle in 43% of angle crashes

  • The driver was inattentive or engaged in some other non-driving-related activity in 58% of crashes overall

  • The most frequent potentially-distracting behaviors were conversing or otherwise interacting with passengers and cell phone use

  • Decision errors such as failing to yield right of way, running stop signs and driving too fast, were involved in 66% of crashes

One of the most interesting findings was the difference estimates of the involvement of driving distractions.  Historically, NHTSA has estimated that this is around 7%; this study found that distractions were involved in approximately 60% of all collisions.  This also has implications for driving schools, confirming that we should be doing everything possible to help teens develop distraction-free driving habits.  Driver education is a powerful opportunity to do just that.

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