Distraction and Teen Crashes

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Most serious accidents with teen drivers are caused by distractions, like phones:

Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied, including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes. NHTSA previously has estimated that distraction is a factor in only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes.

Researchers found that drivers manipulating their cell phone (includes calling, texting or other uses), had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final six seconds leading up to a crash. The researchers also measured reaction times in rear-end crashes and found that teen drivers using a cell phone failed to react more than half of the time before the impact, meaning they crashed without braking or steering.


  1. Alrenous says:

    It’s extremely important that cell phones are not even the majority of distractions, even though they consistently get top billing.

    The worst distraction is other people.

    Their statistics don’t add up properly, but something like two thirds of distractions statically associated with accidents are neither cellphones nor people.

    There’s also the ever-present racism causation problem. Does distraction cause poor driving or are poor drivers likely to let themselves get distracted? If the latter, all that banning cell phones will do is change the proportions.

    Finally, don’t forget these people don’t give the slightest damn about safety; their hard-on is for telling people what to do. They briefly mention limiting other people, but go on about cell phones all article long.

    Finally I notice they’re talking about ‘crashes’ not ‘injuries,’ yet they’re calling it a ‘safety’ problem. It’s entirely possible that, e.g, cellphones are associated only with fender benders, whereas other issues are associated with the hospitalizations. Indeed precisely because they engage in these equivocations, it’s highly likely they have to engage in them, because they want to ban things, not make anyone safer.

    Even assuming everything is nicely proportional, if they banned cellphones and it was 100% effective it would prevent 344 deaths. Banning school would prevent 1100 just in suicides.

  2. Isegoria says:

    While cell phones don’t provide the majority of distractions, I think it’s fair to say that they introduce a new, large source of distractions.

    I agree that there’s a certain circularity, in that teens with bad judgment tend to compound their problems by introducing more distractions — but the teens in the videos certainly appeared typical.

    Also, the increase was in “moderate-to-severe” crashes — which presumably excludes fender-benders.

  3. Isegoria says:

    The full report implies that “moderate-to-severe” crashes involve more than 1 g of acceleration:

    For this study, 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes involving young drivers ages 16-19 were reviewed. Of these crashes, 727 were vehicle-to-vehicle crashes in which the force of the impact was 1.0g or greater, and 964 were single-vehicle crashes in which the vehicle’s tires left the roadway and impacted (with a force of 1.0g or greater) one or more natural or artificial objects. While the extent of any injuries sustained in the crashes was not evident from the videos, it is known that no fatal crashes were included in this analysis.

    This observation caught my eye:

    Additionally, for all types of crashes, drivers were significantly more likely to have been using their cell phone when they were alone in the vehicle than when they had passengers.

    It’s obvious in retrospect, but it suggests that solo teens choose to distract themselves the moment they don’t have friends to distract them — only cell phones are a worse distraction:

    Drivers engaged in cell phone use had mean eyes-off-road times that were twice as long as those drivers who were attending to passengers (3.3s vs 1.5s). Also, when cell phone use was analyzed separately, the average eyes-off-road time for drivers who were operating or looking at their phone was 4.1s, compared to 0.9s for drivers who were talking or listening.

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