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As a parent, should I worry that my teen is going to be distracted behind the wheel and be in an accident?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

While not every teen driver is distracted behind the wheel, a new study by the AAA Foundation found that the problem may be much more common than previously thought. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics indicate that about 14 percent of accidents are caused by distracted drivers. The NHTSA’s information is gathered from police reports. However, they may not reflect the true scope of the problem.

A New, Naturalistic Study From the University of Iowa Says the Problem May Be Much Greater

Instead of distracted drivers being involved in 14 percent of accidents, the University of Iowa study found that distracted driving was a factor in 58 percent of accidents. Researchers looked at data from 1,691 accidents involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers who had in-vehicle video cameras installed in their cars. Specifically, researchers looked at the six seconds prior to the crashes and found that in 58 percent of the crashes, the teen driver was inattentive or engaged in non-driving related activities. The two most common distractions were interacting with passengers and cell phone use.

What This Means for You and Your Child

While the study did not find that every car accident involving a teen driver is caused by distracted driving, it did find that the problem may be much more common than previously thought. Accordingly, you are right to be concerned about the danger and to do what you can to protect your child, her passengers, and other drivers. To do that, you can educate your child about the dangers of looking away from the road and teach your child to be a safe driver. Then, you may be able to worry a little less as your child takes this important, yet dangerous, step toward independence.
 

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham