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Teen Drivers and Texting While Driving

Laws banning drivers' use of cell phones are saving motorcyclists' lives

Researchers suggest that states with stricter laws have lower fatality rates

Though cell phones have come to permeate essentially every area of our lives, the use of these devices while driving has become particularly problematic. Amidst several campaigns urging consumers not to text or call while driving, the issue continues to lead to fatal car accidents.

However, a new study conducted by researchers from Florida Atlantic University found that motorcyclist fatalities have been on the decline in states that have instituted strict bans on using c...

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    AAA says drivers are still distracted by infotainment systems

    Even touch screen and voice controls aren't helping that much

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with voice controls, continue to pose dangerous distractions for drivers.

    These infotainment systems, which play music from multiple sources and display maps outlining routes, often come with higher levels of sophistication and more features. According to AAA, that's not a good thing.

    The researchers say they found drivers who used in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features could be both visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when programming a navigation or sending a text message.

    The auto club cites previous research that found taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.

    Unsafe situations for drivers

    "Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

    Yang doesn't rule out the possibility that in-vehicle technology could be made less distracting. In fact, he says some systems, while far from perfect, are not as bad as others.

    "When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete," Yang said

    The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, who examined both the visual and mental demands of infortainment systems. They also measured the time it took to complete a task using the systems installed in 30 vehicles from the 2017 model year.

    Participants in the study were instructed to use voice command, touch screen, and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation -- all while keeping the vehicle on the road.

    Navigation most distracting

    The study found that programming a navigation system was the most distracting task for a driver, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete.

    Remarkably, the study found none of the 30 infotainment system generated low demand on drivers. Seven were found to generate moderate demands on a driver's attention, while 11 generated high demand and 12 were "very high" in their demands.

    Among the most demanding were the infotainment systems found in the Honda Civic Touring, Ford Mustang GT, and Tesla Model S.

    The least distracting infotainment systems – those imposing a “moderate” demand on the driver – were found in the Chevy Equinox LT, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota Camry SE, and Lincoln MKC Premier.

    "Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers," said Marshall Doney, AAA's CEO.

    Doney says drivers are more distracted when they encounter problems using the audio or navigation systems in their cars. However, since research shows consumers like these sophisticated systems, Doney says AAA is meeting with auto manufacturers and suppliers to find ways to make them easier to use.

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with v...

    Are smartphones in cars just too distracting?

    Drivers are now more likely to be accessing apps than texting

    For years now safety experts have preached to drivers about the dangers of texting behind the wheel. And though people still do it, many are getting the message. Fewer admit to doing it than in the past.

    But the danger isn't going away, and it appears to be tied directly to the smartphone. Drivers – especially young drivers – aren't texting as much because they are too busy using apps while they drive.

    A survey released this month by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students against Destructive Driving (SADD) found just 27% of teen drivers report texting behind the wheel but 68% admit to using an app, usually reading or posting to social media.

    Needless to say, the experts stress, that's not just as bad – it's worse. But teen drivers overwhelmingly don't see it that way. Eighty percent of the teens in the study insist that using an app while driving is not distracting.

    Not a distraction, teens say

    “Teens as a whole are saying all the right things, but implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD.

    Teens aren't the only offenders. Plenty of adults of all ages have been caught texting or posting to Snapchat behind the wheel. A Pennsylvania TV station aired a photo supplied by a viewer that appears to show a woman steering with one foot while she uses both hands to access her smartphone.

    Newly-passed state laws against texting while driving appear to have had little impact, even though insurance companies will raise your rates should you be ticketed for an infraction.

    The SADD study suggests many teens consider navigation and music apps on their phones as “utilities,” lessening the perception of dangers of accessing them while driving. Vehicle Bluetooth systems that provide hands-free access for smartphone apps through the vehicle's infotainment system may have fostered what some believe to be a false sense of security.

    AAA study

    A 2013 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found even hands-free devices are dangerous, because the mental workload and distractions can slow reaction. Drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs and pedestrians.

    It is in this light that automakers are speeding up efforts to produce self-driving cars. While some safety advocates worry these autonomous vehicles will be inherently dangerous, there are plenty of others who think they will make the roads safer, because the people who would ordinarily be driving them are in the back seat, updating their Facebook profiles.

    In the meantime, insurance companies make clear that it isn't just texting that is the problem. It's the device itself, and all the things a driver may be tempted to do with it. Dr. William Horrey, a research scientist at Libery Mutual, says it's not the apps that pose the danger. It's how people interact with them.

    For years now safety experts have preached to drivers about the dangers of texting behind the wheel. And though people still do it, many are getting the me...

    Why your hands-free phone may still be dangerous while you're driving

    It may not occupy your hand, but it occupies your mind

    Car companies make a big deal about their Bluetooth-enabled sound systems that allow you to make and receive mobile telephone calls without ever touching your phone.

    But there have been several studies suggesting this is still an unsafe distraction. Now, there's one more study.

    Psychologists are the University of Sussex say the problem with a cell phone has never been that it occupies one hand that ordinarily on the steering wheel. Rather, they say the phone conversation occupies the driver's mind and makes him or her less aware of the environment.

    The study found that drivers having conversations which triggered their visual imaginations were less aware of road hazards. Their eyes also focused on a smaller area of the road, sometimes causing them to miss road hazards that were right in front of them.

    Little difference in safety

    Dr. Graham Hole, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, says it is difficult to see any difference in distraction level between someone holding a phone and talking and someone on a hands-free device.

    “Our findings have implications for real-life mobile phone conversations,” Hole said. “The person at the other end of the phone might ask 'where did you leave the blue file,' causing the driver to mentally search a remembered room. The driver may also simply imagine the facial expression of the person they’re talking to.”

    Hole says conversations are more visual than most people believe.What happens, he says, is a driver can enter a “visual world” and be less aware of what's happening in the actual world, with dangerous implications when someone is piloting a vehicle going 60 to 70 miles per hour.

    AAA study

    Three years ago a AAA study on the potential distractions of advanced infotainment systems in cars made special mention of hands-free phones, saying drivers shouldn't be lulled into the belief they are that much safer.

    The study concluded that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, drivers scan the road less, and miss visual cues. Like the Sussex study, the AAA researchers said drivers run the risk of seeing, but not recognizing things right in front of them, such as pedestrians or stop signs.

    “There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said at the time. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”

    Car companies make a big deal about their Bluetooth-enabled sound systems that allow you to make and receive mobile telephone calls without ever touching y...

    Public health officials step up pressure against distracted driving

    Despite awareness campaigns, drivers still texting behind the wheel

    All the public service announcements, all the lectures, and all the traffic tickets don't seem to have made a dent in texting-while-driving cases. At least, not yet.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 3,100 people died in traffic accidents in 2014 as the result of distracted driving, and Beverly Shirk, pediatric trauma coordinator at Penn State Children’s Hospital, says texting behind the wheel was undoubtedly a factor in most of those accidents.

    “People sending or receiving a text have four seconds or more that their eyes are off the road,” Shirk said. “If you’re traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s the length of a football field. Your reaction time might not allow for you to stop.”

    Shirk is well-acquainted with the problem because every year she works closely with teens in workshops on safe driving. She says it's a challenge to make teens understand the many distractions present in the car and why it calls for making good choices.

    Other distractions


    Besides talking or texting, she says teens tell her that today's sophisticated infotainment systems can be a distraction, as well as operating navigation systems. Eating behind the wheel is still a major distraction, she says.

    Shirk says many teens feel compelled to respond to messages from their friends instantly, even if they are in heavy traffic. The way around that, she suggests, is setting a phone to silent and stowing it out of sight while the vehicle is moving.

    To alleviate anxiety over not being able to respond instantly, she recommends downloading an app that automatically responds to incoming contacts with a message that the recipient is driving and will respond shortly.

    More accountability

    With the tools available to reduce cellphone distractions, more and more safety advocates are pushing to hold drivers accountable when they don't take advantage of them and cause accidents. Deborah Becker, co-founder of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs), says accountability works.

    Drunk driving is down, she says, because drunk drivers are facing much stiffer penalties. These days, she says a fatal car crash is most likely to be caused by someone looking at their cellphone.

    "When people were held accountable for drunk driving, that's when positive change occurred,” she said. “It's time to recognize that distracted driving is a similar impairment, and should be dealt with in a similar fashion.”

    Becker's group is backing proposed legislation that would have drivers submit their phone to roadside testing to see if it were in use at the time of an accident or traffic stop.

    Shirk says it all comes down to making good decisions. If you are driving and you need to use your phone, load music into the infotainment system, or pull up a map, simply pull off the road while you are doing it.

    All the public service announcements, all the lectures, and all the traffic tickets don't seem to have made a dent in texting-while-driving cases. At least...

    AAA study finds hands-free phone systems highly distracting

    Distraction can last 27 seconds after issuing voice command

    Most new cars have cool infotainment systems that integrate wireless connectivity with cellphones, allowing drivers to send and receive verbal texts, make hands-free calls and issue voice commands to the music system.

    They're billed as safety features but studies have suggested they might not be all that safe. Now, a new study from AAA says they're more dangerous than previously thought.

    It's true these systems don't occupy your hands but they do take mind-share, and researchers say that's where the problem lies. Potentially unsafe mental distractions can for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands, according to the research by conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

    Growing safety problem

    “The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free.”

    To some experts, the research raises new and unexpected concerns about the use of phones and vehicle information systems while driving. It's the third phase of the Foundation’s investigation into mental distraction behind the wheel.

    It shows that new hands-free technologies can mentally distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.

    “The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

    At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers distracted for 27 seconds traveled the length of nearly three football fields. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.

    What's a driver to think? Maybe to think twice about when and where you use these voice-activated features.

    “Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” Doney said. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.”

    Best and worst

    Some hands-free systems are more distracting than others. The best performing system was the Chevy Equinox, with a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4.

    The most distracting was the Mazda 6, with a cognitive distraction rating of 4.6.

    Among phone systems, Google Now performed best with a distraction rating of 3.0, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana earned ratings of 3.4 and 3.8.

    Most new cars have cool infotainment systems that integrate wireless connectivity with cellphones, allowing drivers to send and receive verbal texts, make ...

    DriveID aims to make roads safer by reducing distracted driving

    The new technology is available on both iOS and Android devices

    Parents everywhere are searching for ways to make sure their teens stay safe while driving. For many, the urge to send a text message or stay connected in other ways can be too great, and it leads to many tragic, unnecessary deaths every year. Phone-blocking apps for smartphones have been shown to be effective, but they often are either too restrictive or too easy to override. But with the latest release of DriveID, by Cellcontrol, many of these problems have been addressed.

    Winner of two Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Awards, DriveID has the ability to block all cell phone-related distractions when a car is in motion. The actual device is a small black box that can be attached to the windshield, under the rearview mirror. When paired with a driver’s phone, the device is able to block all manner of mobile distractions, such as text messages, calls, emails, and many other applications as soon as the vehicle begins moving.

    As a parent or employer, you may be thinking “what if I need to get in contact with the person who is driving the car?” Well, with DriveID, approved phone numbers and apps can be pre-programmed on the device’s white list. This allows calls from certain contacts to come through, and allows apps, such as necessary ones for navigation, to continue to work.

    Unique features

    DriveID also provides another great feature in its ability to generate a driving report for each trip. This report is available to both the driver and the account manager, and provides information such as a “driver score”, the number of times the phone was used, and some advice on how the driver can improve their driver performance.

    Passengers may lament that they won’t be able to use their phones when riding in the car, but that is also not an issue. DriveID is able to recognize the zone, or space, that a driver is occupying so that no one else is hindered by the mobile-blocking technology. A full description of how the device works can be found in the video below.

    “From our beginning, our focus has been on engineering the best solutions to stop mobile distractions, and pushing the limits of mobile device platform architecture, to bring our customers paramount distracted driving protection,” said CEO of Cellcontrol, Robert Guba.

    DriveID is currently available for both iOS and Android phones, making it accessible to a large number of mobile users. If you are interested in getting more information, you can visit the Cellcontrol website here

    Parents everywhere are searching for ways to make sure their teens stay safe while driving. For many, the urge to send a text message or stay connected in ...

    Report finds parents clueless about teens' risky driving

    Allstate Foundation survey also finds teens learn some risky driving behaviors from their parents

    The Allstate Foundation tries to keep tabs on perceptions of driving habits and how those perceptions mesh with reality.

    In particular, the foundation measures how well parents are supervising their teenage drivers. The foundation's latest report finds many parents are pretty much out of the loop.

    The foundation reached that conclusion after quizzing both parents and their teens. Here's the data the foundation says jumped out at investigators:

    • Seventy-nine percent of teens admit to speeding, but only 55% of parents believe their teens speed.
    • Ninety-five percent of teens admit to getting a moving violation; only 79% of parents believe their teens have committed an offense.
    • Twenty-three percent of teens admit they’ve driven after drinking alcohol and/or using marijuana, but only 7% of parents believe their teens have driven under the influence.
    • Eighty-seven percent of teens admit to using cellphones while driving, but only 63% of parents say their teens use phones while driving.

    Improvement needed

    The insurance giant says it believes parents have to do a better job of ensuring their children practice safe driving habits.

    “Our teen safe driving program has contributed to a nearly 48 percent decline in teen crash fatalities since 2005,” said Steve Sorenson, executive vice president of Allstate. “While there has been progress, we continue to encourage parents and teens to have an open dialogue about driving. It’s also important that parents ensure their teens are wearing their seat belts, obeying speed limits, and eliminating distractions, because these actions help to keep teens safer on the road.”

    And something else: the report also found that parents do some of the same risky things behind the wheel as their teens. For example, 84% of parents admit to speeding, slightly more than their children.

    And teens aren't the only ones chatting on their phones as they drive. The report found parents admitted to doing it just as much.

    “Teens continue to tell us their parents are the number one influence on how they drive, so as parents we have an important responsibility to model good driving behaviors,” Sorenson said. “We must find new and compelling ways to motivate teens and parents to engage in safe driving habits.”

    Encouraging note

    On an encouraging note, the report found that teens are more aware of highway dangers than they were a decade ago. The number of teens age 15 to 17 who worry about financial and legal consequences from car crashes has nearly tripled since 2005.

    The foundation has three pieces of advice for parents of teenage drivers; ride with their teen at least 30 minutes a week, especially in the first year after they are fully licensed; follow your state's Graduated Driver Licensing laws; and be a good role model by putting away cellphones, buckling up, and obeying speed limits.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 2,650 teens in the U.S., aged 16 to 19, were killed in 2011 and almost 292,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes. That works out to seven teens who died every day from motor vehicle injuries.

    The CDC says young people ages 15 to 24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population, but account for 30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.

    ...

    Safety groups raise alarm over cellphone 'deadwalkers'

    Injuries mounting because people aren't paying attention

    Perhaps there is no better sign of the times in which we live than a policy change at a Utah college.

    Officials at Utah Valley University (UVU) divided the stairway in the Student Life & Wellness Center into three lanes – one for walking, one for running and the third for texting. Students who want to check their phones while walking have their own lane, so they won't hurt themselves or others because they aren't paying attention.

    “When you have 18- to 24-year-olds walking on campus glued to their smartphones, you’re almost bound to run into someone somewhere; it’s the nature of the world we live in,” said Matt Bambrough, UVU’s creative director.

    Bambrough said adding the lane was not done with serious intent. He said it was actually an attempt at humor rather than a real attempt to direct traffic flow. But there are plenty of people who think people who are walking while distracted by their smartphones is serious business.

    Epidemic of fractures

    The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says distracted "deadwalkers" are causing an epidemic of fractures and other orthopaedic injuries. The groups says more and more pedestrians fall down stairs, trip over curbs or other objects, and in many instances, step into traffic, causing serious injury, and even death, each year, prompting the creation of a public service campaign (below).

    "We know that the number of injuries to pedestrians using their phones has nearly tripled since 2004, and surveys have shown that 60% of pedestrians are distracted by other activities while walking," said Alan Hilibrand, MD, chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet.

    Significant safety threat

    In fact, distracted walking injuries involving cell phones accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries between 2000 and 2011 according to the National Safety Council, making it a significant safety threat. Most of these injuries, the group says, actually occur at home – not on a public sidewalk.

    "Whether we are in the car or on foot, it is important to be aware of our surroundings, even if they are familiar," said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "More than half of all unintentional injuries each year happen at home, so don't take your safety for granted. No call, text or update is worth an injury."

    Statistics show distracted walking injuries involving cellphones were most common among women and those ages 40 and younger, but the recent study found older adults are contributing to the danger as well. Twenty-one percent of those injured in these accidents were 71or older.

    Despite the perception that texting while walking poses the biggest threat, talking on the phone accounted for 62% of injuries, the most common of which were dislocation or fracture, sprains or strains and concussions. In nearly 80% of these incidents, the injuries were were caused by a fall.

    The problem posed by both distracted driving and walking may have something to do with the sudden explosion in mobile devices. The National Safety Council points out there has been an 8-fold increase in mobile phone use in the last 15 years.

    Consumers adopted and began using these devices faster than society could come up with rules and established behavior governing their use.

    Perhaps there is no better sign of the times in which we live than a policy change at a Utah college. Officials at Utah Valley University (UVU) divided ...

    Will the Apple Watch make distracted driving worse?

    Some people are already worrying about the device's potential downside

    There is no doubt the Apple Watch does many cool things and over time, consumers may find even more uses for it.

    But people who worry about distracted driving now have a new concern – that drivers wearing an Apple Watch might become even more distracted, making the highways less safe.

    Maybe they have a point. You might be driving in traffic and your Apple watch vibrates. If it were your cellphone, maybe you would leave it in your pocket until you could safely pull over and retrieve and respond to the message.

    But the watch is on your wrist. All you have to do is glance at it. Is that a dangerous distraction? There are people trying to figure that out.

    Still trying to figure it out

    “The Apple Watch has great potential,” said Eddie Bermudez, Manager of Product Development for GPSTrackIt.com. “But we’re still trying to get a handle on cell phone use and the impact that has on distracted driving.”

    GPSTrackIt.com is a firm in the fleet management industry, meaning it assists companies that operate fleets of cars and trucks. One of its roles is to make sure the vehicles are operated in a safe manner.

    This industry has been focused on distracted driving since cellphones became a ubiquitous part of modern life. It has backed state laws that fine drivers for talking or texting while behind the wheel.

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 14 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have some form of primary handheld device ban. This applies to using a smartphone for navigation as well as for communication.

    “This means that law enforcement doesn’t need another reason to pull you over,” said Bermudez. “And those are just the states that ban the use of handheld devices while driving. Many other states have cell phone or texting bans, with specific criteria like for school bus drivers or novice drivers.”

    Uncharted waters

    So now a new device has entered the mix, one that is always close at hand and performs a multitude of functions. Users can receive text messages on the watch, which vibrates to alert them to an incoming message.

    With the watch attached to the wrist, Bermudez says a user will need the other hand to manipulate the device's controls.

    “Now they’re not just distracted, they’re driving one-handed,” he said. “And the watch is smaller, so it requires more attention to manipulate it.”

    Bermudez admits it is very early in the Apple Watch product cycle so it is hard to know just how it will add to driver distraction, if it does at all. But he says technological advances, even when it was expected they would improve safety, haven't always worked out that way.

    “Think about what happened with Google Glass,” he said. “They thought a ‘heads up display’ would be safer for drivers, but even that proved to be too distracting.”

    Many fleet managers have policies that require their drivers to turn off cell phones while driving. To make sure they do, some companies have even installed lock boxes in their vehicles to prevent drivers from even handling their phones while driving.

    That probably makes fleet vehicles a little safer on the road. But there are no such requirements for all the other drivers.

    There is no doubt the Apple Watch does many cool things and over time, consumers may find even more uses for it. But people who worry about distracted d...

    Technology may reduce distracted driving among teens

    Study finds intervention devices successfully modified dangerous behavior

    It is a sad fact that the number one cause of accidental death in teens is motor vehicle accidents. In this current age of always needing to be plugged in, it is extremely difficult for many young drivers to put down their phones. Fortunately, a recent study shows that other types of technology may provide the answer to keeping young drivers safe.

    The study, which was led by Dr. Beth Ebel of the University of Washington, attempted to find out if other types of technology could make driving safer for young people. She and her colleagues believe that there is not enough being done to minimize distracted driving. “Facts and figures have not done enough to change driver behavior,” she said.

    29 teens

    The research team chose 29 teens for the study and observed them for six months. Each driver was placed into one of three groups. Two of the groups had intervention measures to stop distracted driving. The third group was the control group, and had no intervention measures in place.

    The first intervention group had an in-vehicle camera system installed that was triggered by certain driving conditions, such as hard braking, fast cornering, or impacts. The video footage was made available to teens and parents so that it could be reviewed to improve driving behavior.

    The second intervention group had a device installed that blocked incoming and outgoing calls and messages when the vehicle was being operated. In addition to these measures, all three groups had a program installed on their phones so that researchers could track how much they were used while driving.

    The results of the study showed that the intervention groups had lower cell phone use and fewer high-risk driving behaviors than the control group. Out of the three groups, those with the cell blocking technology had the safest driving record.

    One of the most interesting things uncovered by the study was that the young drivers were receptive to the intervention measures. None of the participants disabled the programs that were inhibiting their phone use. This gives hope that these technologies may be practical in the real world. Both intervention methods are currently available for commercial use.

    It is a sad fact that the number one cause of accidental death in teens is motor vehicle accidents. In this current age of always needing to be plugged in,...

    Video study documents teen distracted driving

    In-car cameras capture moments just before and after a crash

    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.

    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 mo...

    Studies suggest distracted driving getting worse

    But not all distractions are related to cellphones

    Two new studies of highway accidents and driver behavior are shedding new light on distracted driving, in particular on the part of young drivers.

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distracted driving was a contributing factor in nearly 60% of moderate-to-serious crashes involving teen drivers.

    This was something of a surprise since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had previously estimated that distracted driving contributed to only 14% of accidents involving teen-age drivers.

    According to the study drivers were seen engaging in some type of potentially distracting behavior leading up to 58% of all crashes that were examined. Two distractions played the biggest roles: in 14.9% of the crashes the driver got distracted while attending to a passenger. In 11.9% of the accidents, he or she was using a cell phone.

    Cell phone use was significantly more likely in cases where the vehicle left the road. Overall, males and females were equally likely to be engaged in potentially distracting behavior. However, females were more likely than males to have been using a cell phone, engaged in personal grooming, or singing or dancing to music prior to the crash.

    Driver behavior

    A second study, sponsored by Erie Insurance, also points to a wide range of distracting behaviors behind the wheel that have the potential to lead to traffic accidents. To gather its data the study asked subjects whether they engaged in certain behaviors.

    Besides the obvious phone distractions of texting and talking, other distractions people admitted to ranged from public displays of affection to personal grooming to taking selfies.

    "A distraction is anything that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, or their mind off their primary task of driving safely," said Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance. "Our survey found drivers unfortunately are engaging in a wide range of distracting and potentially dangerous behaviors."

    Non cellphone distractions

    For example, 15% admitted to engaging in a romantic encounter, with public displays of affection, with someone while driving. An equal number admitted to combing or styling their hair while behind the wheel.

    Believe it or not 9% said they had changed clothes while driving. Eight percent said they had put on make-up and 4% said they had flossed or brushed their teeth while driving.

    Amazingly, 3% said they, as a driver, had changed positions with a passenger while underway.

    Other distractions showing up in the survey include putting in contact lenses or eye drops; curling eyelashes; scratching off lottery tickets; and even playing the guitar while driving.

    Regional difference

    When it comes to texting behind the wheel, there appears to be pronounced regional differences. Drivers in the south are most likely to text while driving, with 35% admitting to having done it. However, only 24% of drivers in the northeast admit to texting behind the wheel.

    Overall, the Erie survey suggests texting and driving remains a significant problem, with 30% of drivers saying they've done it and 75% saying they have seen other drivers do it.

    The survey found that texting while driving also remains a serious problem, with about one-third of drivers saying they themselves have done it and three-quarters saying they've seen others do it.

    Two new studies of highway accidents and driver behavior are shedding new light on distracted driving, in particular on the part of young drivers....