A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms what common sense tells us we know anyway. Newly licensed teen drivers are more likely to have a crash or near miss when they are distracted by phones, eating or other objects in the car than more experienced drivers.
But that isn’t to say that adults who get distracted while driving are safe behind the wheel.
The researchers found experienced adults were more than twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing a cell phone as when they did not dial and drive, but did not have an increased risk while engaging in other tasks secondary to driving. The study also points out that 10 percent of all U.S. drivers take their eyes off the road because they are doing something other than focusing on driving such as eating, texting, dialing a phone number, talking to another passenger, changing the radio station or searching for an object in the car.
Study co-author Bruce Simons-Morton of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said the risks of distracted driving were greatest for newly licensed teen drivers, who were substantially more likely than adults to be involved in a crash or near miss while texting or engaging in tasks secondary to driving.
Novice teen drivers were
- Eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing.
- Seven to eight times more likely when reaching for a phone or other object.
- Almost four times more likely when texting, and three times more likely when eating.
According to the study, talking on a cell phone did not actually increase the risk for a crash or accident among adults or teenage drivers. But, because you’ve got to reach for the phone to answer or dial a number – the risks increased greatly – during that time period.
The authors concluded that their results provide support for licensing programs that restrict electronic device use, particularly among novice drivers. They also stressed the need for education about the danger of distracted driving.
The bottom line is that when you or your teen are driving – pay attention to the road and other drivers. Your chances of getting safely to your destination increase substantially.