New research indicates that more teenagers identify texting while driving as risky, but many still engage in other harmful distractions.
In Canfield and the rest of Ohio, teenagers who are under the age of 18 are subject to stricter distracted driving laws than older drivers. While texting is a secondary offense for most drivers, lawmakers have made it a primary offense for teens to discourage distracted driving. Encouragingly, a new study suggests that teenagers are starting to appreciate the risks of texting while driving. However, they still may be prone to engage in a number of other equally risky distractions.
Common teen distractions
According to National Public Radio, during the Oregon State University study, researchers surveyed teenagers about their distracted driving habits. The researchers found that the proportion of teenagers who admitted to texting, 40 percent, was lower than the proportions observed in past studies. Troublingly, though, the teenagers also reported engaging in various other distractions while driving, including:
- Changing shoes or clothes
- Putting on cosmetics
- Switching out contact lenses
- Working on homework
Some behaviors were surprisingly common; for instance, 27 percent of teens admitted to sometimes changing outfits while driving.
The researchers had some of the teenagers take a brief interactive course that highlighted the difficulty of multitasking. Afterward, the researchers found that these teenagers were more likely to understand the risks of distracted driving. This is a promising finding, but since many teens currently don't take these classes, the risk of accidents may remain high.
Recent research suggests that distracted driving contributes to substantially more teen car accidents than previously believed. According to The Huffington Post, government entities have previously estimated that 14 percent of teen car accidents are distraction-related. However, a new study that used footage from dashboard video cameras indicates that 58 percent of moderate to severe teen car accidents involve inattentive driving.
Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied footage taken during the six seconds before nearly 1,700 crashes. They found that interactions with passengers were a top cause of accidents, playing a role in 15 percent of the observed ones. The next most common distractions were cell phone use, looking at objects, singing or moving to music, grooming and reaching for items inside the car.
These findings suggest that texting isn't the only distraction that can be problematic for teens. Virtually any task that diverts mental attention has the potential to result in catastrophic outcomes.
Remedies for victims
Teen distracted driving accidents have potential to harm other drivers in addition to the responsible teenagers. Worrisomely, the AAA researchers found that in 50 percent of the cell phone-related crashes, the teen drivers failed to even steer or brake before crashing. This severe inattention could expose other motorists to a heightened risk of serious injuries.
Troublingly, data from the state Department of Public Safety suggests that teen distracted driving is a frequent problem here in Ohio. In 2014, drivers between ages 16 and 20 had the second-highest rate of known accidents involving cellphones and other electronic communication devices. These drivers also had the highest rate of accidents that occurred due to visual distractions or the use of other electronic devices.
When these accidents occur, victims may have recourse, even if the distracted driver wasn't engaging in an illegal activity such as texting. Victims should consider consulting with an auto accident attorney to better understand their options and potential next steps.