Thursday, August 2, 2012

Teens and Distracted Driving

The safety and security of all our citizens is of great importance to the Overland Park Police Department. Recently there have been some events which involved members of our teenaged community and the subject of distracted driving.

As most of you may already know, this is not just an Overland Park or Kansas City Metro problem, but something that has affected many families across the nation.

In its Summer 2012 newsletter, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), highlighted a recent study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which examined distracted driving among teenagers. Some of the results were not surprising, but there were a few things that raised eyebrows.

The report describes how distractions vary based on the presence of passengers, time of day, sex of the driver, and other potentially important factors. The study also provides some excellent insight into the increased crash risk for teenage drivers when carrying passengers.

The Article from the GHSA newsletter is included below as well as a link to the whole study from the AAA Foundation.

AAA Foundation Study Examines Teens and Distractions

A recent naturalistic study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provides new insights into teen distracted driving behavior. The report, Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers, used in-car cameras to record teens in real-world driving situations.

The data for this report came from video clips collected as part of a three-phase study of 50 North Carolina families with novice teen drivers. Researchers at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center analyzed these clips to look for distracted behaviors and distracting conditions among teens during high g-force maneuvers (such as swerving, hard braking, or rapid acceleration). In all, 7,858 clips were recorded when a pre-determined g-force threshold was exceeded in the vehicle.

The footage from these clips showed that teen driver distractions vary by gender and other factors. Electronic devices were the most commonly observed distracted driving activity for all new teen drivers, observed in seven percent of the clips. Teen girls were twice as likely as their male peers to use their cell phone or other electronic devices while driving.

Potentially distracted behavior included adjusting controls (6.2%), personal grooming (3.8%), and eating or drinking (2.8%). Researchers found that many distracting behaviors – including use of electronic devices – were more common among the older teens. This suggests that teens begin to engage in more distracting behaviors as they become more accustomed to driving.

The number and type of passengers also affected the teen drivers’ behavior. With parents or other adults present, potentially distracting behavior decreased significantly. On the other hand, when more than one teen peer was in the car, loud conversation and horseplay were more than likely to occur, which were found to increase the likelihood of serious accidents or high g-force events.

AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger states that, “This new study provides the best view we’ve had about how and when teens engage in distracted driving behaviors believed to contribute to making car crashes the leading cause of death for teenagers.”