A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that distracted driving plays a bigger role in teen car accidents than previously thought.
However, during April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we should take note of a recent editorial by Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler. He points out that distracted driving is something drivers of all ages must avoid – but often do not.
“State, county and local law enforcement see distracted drivers every day,” Chief Heidler writes in the Florence Morning News. “Unfortunately, it’s often when the violator’s fender is wrapped around something.”
Study Finds Nearly 60 Percent of Teen Crashes Involve Distracted Driving
Distracted driving among teen drivers has long been a concern. Whether it is because of their maturity level or lack of driving experience, teens simply tend to engage in risky behaviors when behind the wheel. These behaviors include using cell phones to talk or text or engaging with other passengers in their car.
Concern about this type of driving behavior is one reason why South Carolina, like many other states, has a graduated licensing program for teens.
As the Associated Press notes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that distraction plays a role in about 14 percent of auto accidents involving teen drivers.
What’s interesting about the new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is that, according to its research, the actual percentage of teen distracted driving crashes may be higher – much higher.
The AAA study analyzed 1,691 videos of “crashes or hard-braking events” involving teen drivers. AAA obtained the videos from a company that uses in-car video cameras to coach drivers.
In 58 percent of those videos, the teen driver’s distraction caused the crash, including those in which the teen drove off the road or slammed into a car in front. The distractions included:
- Talking or otherwise engaging with passengers
- Talking on cell phones
- Sending or reading text messages
- Looking away from the road at something within the car
- Looking at something outside of the vehicle (but not the road)
- Singing or moving to music
- Grooming (such as combing one’s hair or putting on makeup)
- Reaching for an object.
Of course, the use of electronic devices by teens when they are driving is a major issue. The AAA researchers found that teen drivers who were using cell phones took their eyes off the road for 4.1 of the 6 seconds immediately before a crash. They also had slower reaction times, often failing to brake or swerve in order to avoid a crash.
Any Distracted Driver Creates Accident Risks
Of course, the distractions identified in the AAA study can be the culprits in crashes involving drivers of any age – not just those involving teens.
“[W]hen operating 2,000 pounds or more of moving metal,” Chief Heidler writes in his editorial piece, “you need to have absolutely all of your attention on your driving.”
The police chief provides a few tips that drivers should heed:
- Never text while driving. It’s not just dangerous. It’s against South Carolina law.
- If you need to talk on a cell phone, pull off the road to a safe location. (Chief Heidler actually writes that one should use a hands-free device. However, studies have shown that both hands-free and hand-held phones can increase crash risks.)
- Don’t eat while driving and never try to apply make-up behind the wheel.
- If you have to take your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel or your mind off the task of driving safely in order to reach for something, don’t reach for it. Pull off the road first.
If you have been involved in a crash that was caused by another driver in Florence or elsewhere in South Carolina, distraction may have been a factor. Your crash should be thoroughly investigated. Contact the Jebaily Law Firm to learn more about your rights and how we can help you.