Distractions a bigger danger to young drivers than previously thought

Distractions, like using phones and even chatting with passengers, pose a far greater risk to young drivers than previously thought, according to new research.

In an analysis of nearly 1,700 videos that capture the actions of teenage drivers moments before a crash, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distractions were a factor in nearly 6 in 10 crashes.

According to the Foundation, this number is four times the rate proposed in previous official estimates, which were based on reports from police who had arrived at the scene.

Distractions involved in 58 per cent of crashes

Researchers rarely have access to crash videos that clearly show what drivers were doing in the moments leading up to an accident, making this new study almost unique.

The analysis shows that driver distraction was a factor in 58 per cent of crashes, with the most common forms of distraction talking with passengers or using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Other distractions observed in the videos included drivers taking their eyes off the road, even momentarily, plus singing or dancing to music or reaching for an object inside the car.

Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president and CEO, said that the videos provide “indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realised”.

Previous research undertaken has shown that younger drivers with multiple passengers are the most likely to have accidents, though interestingly the opposite is the case for adults and older drivers.

Studies have found that, for older drivers especially, having passengers in the car with extra sets of eyes on the road can actually improve the driver’s attention to the road and increase safety.

The study found that young drivers using mobile devices had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 seconds out of the final six seconds leading up to a crash, leaving little time to react.

In fact, researchers also showed that reaction times while distracted were so slow, that more than half of younger drivers distracted before an impact made no effort to brake or steer away at all.

Third of British youngsters take selfies at the wheel

Research from Ford last summer revealed that as many as a third of young British drivers aged between 18 and 24 have used their phones to take selfies behind the wheel while driving.

The survey, which collated data from 7,000 smartphone users aged between 18 and 24 across Europe, also showed that a quarter of European drivers had used social media sites while driving.

According to the data, such behaviour is worse amongst young British people than any other European country surveyed, with male drivers being the worst offenders.