While it may come as no surprise to anyone who has a smart phone-fixated teen at home, a new study from Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute shows that young drivers are far more likely to be distracted while driving than more experienced motorists.
Although the research shows teenagers behind the wheel are more focused on the task of driving than long-time drivers for the first six months they are on the road, after approximately 16 months of driving teens are twice as likely to be distracted by what the study calls “secondary tasks” while behind the wheel. Secondary tasks include dialing a cellphone, reaching for something, eating or even talking to others in the car. According to the study, these distracted teens can do significant damage. While people 15-20 make up only 6.4 percent of all drivers on the road, the age group makes up 11.4 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and published in the New England Journal of Medicine this month, the Virginia Tech study found that risk of a crash for young drivers increased by seven times if they were dialing or reaching for a phone and fourfold if they were sending or receiving a text.
Twelve states currently ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving while 41 states ban text messaging. Thirty-seven states have banned any cellphone use while driving for new or teen drivers, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration.
Learn more about the study here.