Distracted driving a key contributor to teen crashes

An analysis of nearly 1,700 in-car videos of teen drivers shows that distraction is a much more prevalent contributor to serious crashes than originally thought, a traffic safety foundation reported Wednesday.

But a teen driving expert cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from the work.

Distractions — including chatting with a passenger, texting and grooming — were factors in nearly 60 percent of moderate-to-severe teen crashes reviewed in a study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and conducted by the University of Iowa. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had estimated that distraction played a role in 14 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.

Foundation President Peter Kissinger said in a statement that the “in-depth analysis” provided “indisputable evidence” of distraction being a much greater risk for young drivers. “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,” he added.

Researchers at the University of Iowa reviewed six seconds of in-car videos prior to 1,691 teen-driving crashes. Most of the drivers resided in the Midwest, the foundation reported, and the crashes occurred from August 2007 to July 2013.

“The teens did know that they were being filmed,” AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher said Wednesday, “which is scary because distraction was still so common.”

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