AAA Study on Distracted Teenage Drivers: Serious Car Accidents and Incidents

March 30, 2012

Driver w map in lap.jpgIn my last blog entry, I wrote about a study just released by the American Automobile Association ("AAA"). Concerned about the number of teenage drivers in car accidents, AAA put recording devices in cars being driven by teenagers, and recorded what happened. Last week, AAA released its report, AAA Distracted Teenage Drivers Report.pdf.

AAA installed these devices on the windshield behind the rearview mirror. Each camera had a lens facing forward, to record what was happening on the roadway in front of the vehicle, and a second facing the rear, designed to record what was happening inside the car as well as what was happening to the rear of the vehicle. The recorder also captured audio and information about the g-forces that were at work. The recorder ran continuously, but in a loop designed to record over the old information. If a "triggering event" happened, however, the recorder was designed to save the information captured in the ten seconds right before the event, and in the ten seconds right afterwards. The device "triggered" when the g-forces it was recording hit a significant level of forward/rearward movement, or side-to-side (lateral) movement. The g-forces indicated that the teenage driver had suddenly braked or crashed, or had abruptly turned.

The study was designed to look at how distracted teenage drivers were, and how much the distraction affected them. It found that teenage girls were more likely to be distracted than teenage boys were, and specifically were more likely to use electronic devices while they were driving. Boys were more likely to turn around while they were driving. The more teenagers in the car, the more distracted the young driver became. Teen drivers appeared especially impacted by loud talking in the car, which had a significant correlation to a "triggering event."

Fortunately, most of the triggering events did not result in serious car wrecks, although .7% did result in serious incidents of some sort. The study defined "serious incident" as a collision (there were 3 car wrecks involving teen drivers), an evasive maneuver (teen drivers were involved in 22 evasive maneuvers), a near collision, in which another driver averted what would have been a collision (the recorded showed 8 near collisions caused by the teen drivers), or an "other serious incident", which included situations in which the teenage driver lost control of the vehicle, or in which the vehicle left the roadway while the teenager was driving.

I am definitely interested in this report because I handle DeKalb County car accident lawsuits, and car wreck lawsuits all around Georgia, but I also find this study very important because my kids will soon be teenage drivers. As the mom of two soon-to-be teenage drivers, it really disturbed me to see that, although the study lasted just six months, during that period three teen drivers were in car wrecks.

Almost half of the teenage drivers had what the study termed a "serious incident" during the six months that AAA monitored the video cameras. Three of the teenage drivers had five incidents each.

The young drivers were six times more likely to have a serious incident when the recorders revealed there had been loud conversation in the vehicle right before the event. The study was not able to determine whether teenagers using electronic devices, or engaged in horseplay, had more serious driving incidents, because "the confidence intervals were too wide."

These statistics are very worrisome, and not just because the teenage drivers are causing wrecks that injure or even kill others, but also because the teenagers driving the cars or the passengers riding with the teen driver often get personal injuries or are killed themselves.