A picture is worth a thousand words. Highway safety advocates are hoping in-vehicle video of actual car accidents caused by driver distraction can focus more attention on the problem.
Back in March the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that distracted driving by teenagers is happening more than anyone previously thought. The foundation reached that conclusion after going to the video tape.
A company called Lytx installs video in-vehicle event recorders in cars. They are part of a driver training system that also collects audio and accelerometer data when a driver triggers an in-vehicle device by hard braking, fast cornering or an impact that exceeds a certain g-force.
Just before and just after crash
The videos are 12-seconds long and provide information from before and after the event. The videos are part of a program for coaching drivers to improve behavior and reduce collisions.
For its study, the foundation was granted permission to analyze the videos – in particular those featuring teenage drivers. This unique video analysis found that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate to severe incidents featuring teen driver – 4 times as many as the official estimates based on police reports.
Below is an excerpt from the collection of videos the foundation analyzed.
Phones not the only distraction
Phones caused the largest percentage of distractions, but the cameras showed there were plenty of other things distracting young drivers. Cell phone use caused 12% of crashes but looking at something in the vehicle caused 10%. Looking at things outside the vehicle, singing or moving to music, grooming or reaching for something were also sources of distraction.
“It is troubling that passengers and cell phones were the most common forms of distraction given that these factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers,” said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet. “The situation is made worse by the fact that young drivers have spent less time behind the wheel and cannot draw upon their previous experience to manage unsafe conditions.”
The analysis of the video footage found that driving looking at their phones had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final 6 seconds leading up to an accident. The researchers also measured reaction time in rear-end crashes, finding that many teens distracted by a cellphone never reacted, meaning they slammed into the vehicle in front without ever hitting the brakes or swerving.
The takeaway from the video footage, Darbeinet concludes, is states need to tighten their graduated driving laws (GDL), prohibiting cell phone use by teen drivers and restricting passengers to one non-family member for the first 6 months of driving.