The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed nearly 1,700 videos that capture the actions of teen drivers in the moments before a crash. It found that distractions were a factor in nearly 6 of 10 moderate to severe crashes. That’s four times the rate in many previous official estimates that were based on police reports.
AAA examined more than 6,842 videos from cameras mounted in vehicles, showing both the driver and the simultaneous view out the windshield. The videos were provided by a company called Lytx, Inc., which offers programs that use video to coach drivers in improving their behavior and reducing vehicle collisions.
The videos revealed that distractions were involved in 58% of the car crashes. The most common forms of distraction were talking or otherwise engaging with passengers and using a cellphone, including talking, texting and reviewing messages. Other forms of distraction observed in the videos included drivers looking away from the road at something inside the vehicle, 10 percent; looking at something outside the vehicle other than the road ahead, 9 percent; singing or moving to music, 8 percent; grooming, 6 percent; and reaching for an object, 6 percent.
The videos provide “indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of accidents than we previously realized,” said Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president and CEO. The NHTSA previously reported that only 14% of teen car crashes were caused by all kinds of distractions.
What is the solution to this problem? Drivers of all ages (not just teens) are glued to their phones and unfortunately this includes while being behind the wheel. I have suggested over and over that there should be stiffer penalties for texting or phone use while driving. Should a teen’s license be suspended if they are caught texting and driving? Should there be higher fines? If teens are not afraid of the repercussions that come with texting and driving, then it will be tough to convince them to cease their behavior.
The other alternative could be left to the auto makers. Maybe there is technology on the horizon that would disable all phones in vehicles unless they are in a “hands free” mode.
Regardless, it appears that distracted driving is a much more dangerous issue than first thought, and that legislation and possibly, technology, should be improved.