Are Young Drivers at Greater Risk of Distracted Driving Crashes?

Shifting your attention between several activities may be perfectly appropriate to get more accomplished while working at your desk or while sitting on the couch watching television. But when driving, trying to multi-task is extremely dangerous. Driving requires a constant awareness of your surroundings and instant recognition of changes in traffic conditions. Even the most minor distraction may lead to accidents and injuries.

Teen drivers in particular are susceptible to distractions caused by cell phones and other electronic devices, texting and talking to other passengers. Unfortunately, young drivers and their passengers are more at risk of being involved in distracted driving accidents.

What Is Distracted Driving?


Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents and injuries in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,000 drivers and their passengers suffer serious and potentially fatal injuries each day as the result of distracted driving accidents. The CDC states that there are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual distractions that cause you to take your eyes off the road;
  • Manual distractions that cause you to remove your hands from the steering wheel;
  • Cognitive distractions, in which your mind is diverted from the task of driving and any hazardous conditions that may lie ahead.

Sending text messages is particularly dangerous. It involves all three types of distraction.

Forty-six states ban all text messaging while driving, and 37 states ban any type of cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Distracted Driving Accidents and Teen Drivers

While distracted driving is dangerous for drivers of any age, teen drivers are at particular risk of potentially fatal accidents and injuries. Recent research from the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that distracted driving  was a factor in as many as six out of ten car crashes involving teen drivers. That number is roughly four times higher than previously reported estimates based on police accident reports.

The new figures are the result of researchers’ analysis of roughly 1,700 in-vehicle event recorders, which showed drivers’ actions in the final seconds leading up to the crashes. Based on video evidence, the researchers said that distracted driving was a factor in nearly 90 percent of lane departure crashes and in 80 percent of rear-end accidents.

The researchers found that the most common types of distractions among teen drivers included:

  • Interactions with passengers in the vehicle;
  • Using cell phones to make calls or text;
  • Diverting attention from the road to look at something within or outside the vehicle;
  • Singing or moving to music while driving;
  • Grooming, such as putting on makeup or combing hair;
  • Reaching for objects within the car.

If you have a teen driver in your family, it is important to talk to him or her about the dangers of distracted driving and to model safe driving behavior when you are behind the wheel. Keeping your mind on the road in front of you and taking driving seriously can help protect both you and those you love from being involved in an accident.