Top Teen Driving Distractions

What you need to know before you hand over the keys to your teen.

Posted Jul 04, 2015

Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm

It's that time of year again! School's out and summer is in the air. Many teens exercise their freedom by sleeping in, earning some extra spending cash, hanging out with friends, and even driving them around. From beaches to blockbusters - summer is all about 'chilling' and having a good time. With no pressure to be here or there, teens have a lot more time to spare. All that freedom can come with a high cost. Did you know Memorial Day through Labor Day is known as the "100 deadliest days" for young drivers?

According to a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 220 teen drivers and passengers died in automobile accidents during each of the summer months between the years of 1994 and 2013. Why summer? Well, for starters, teens are on the road more during the summer than during the school year. To add to that they are inexperienced drivers. So the lack of experience and more driving time can lead to more accidents. For adults, navigating new roads, driving in traffic, and meandering through construction isn't a big deal, but for a teen these can pose dangerous driving conditions. Learning to drive is a learned behavior and it requires a lot of attention, practice and time. Put a friend or two in the car with your teen and you have a potential accident waiting to happen.

According to the National Safety Council, friends in the car with your teen can cause a hazardous situation. In fact, passengers increase the risk of a teen driver having a fatal crash by at least 44 percent. And while texting and phone use is definitely a concern, these activities are limited to a small window of time, compared to the constant distraction of a passenger. A study from The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center found that loud conversations and passengers fooling around were more likely than Smartphone use to result in a dangerous accident involving teen drivers. When there were loud conversations in the car, teen drivers were six times more likely to need to take actions like making an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash. When there was fooling around in the car, teens were three times more likely to get into a similarly serious incident. So passengers, in and of themselves, are a major driving distraction for teens.

Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm

Here are some of the top teen driving distractions:

  • passengers in the car
  • rowdy passengers in the car
  • phone conversations
  • loud music
  • texting

Study after study has shown that teens are easily distracted while driving and those distractions can lead to fatalities. The AAA study analyzed data of police-reported crashes of drivers aged 15-19, from 1994-2013 and found:

  • The majority of people killed (66%) and injured (67%) in crashes involving a teen driver are people other than the teen himself
  • Nearly 50 percent of those injured were in another vehicle; 17 percent were in the teen driver’s car;  2 percent were non-motorists (i.e., pedestrian, bicyclist)
  • Nearly 30 percent of those killed were in another car, 27 percent were the teen’s passenger and ten percent were non-motorists (i.e., pedestrians, bicyclist)

While at face value these statistics are scary, the numbers are showing improvement from past stats on teen driving. On the upside, the number of people injured annually in crashes involving teen drivers has decreased by 51% between 1994 and 2013. Plus, the number of people killed each year in teen driver crashes has decreased by 56%. Most of these declines in injuries and fatalities occurred between 2004 and 2013. AAA attributes the drop, in part, to the implementation and improvement of graduated drivers licensing programs and quality driver education programs. So, the U.S. does have some positive programs in place to educate and make young drivers aware of the dangers associated with driving.

What can you do?

Before your teen heads out the door for that summer outing - be sure you know where, what, who (times two), and when.

The Five Essential Questions

1.  Where are you going? 

2.  What are you going to be doing?

3.  Who are you going to be with? 

4. Who is driving?

5.  When will you be home? 

Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/State Farm

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets forth key driving points for teens to follow in their 5 to Drive Teen Safety campaign: No cell phones, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol and always use seatbelts. So before you hand over your keys, you can use these 5 points with your teen to make sure he/she is ready to safely hit the road this summer. After that - all you can do is send them on their way and pray... Have a happy and safe summer!