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Teen Drivers and Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving - 2

When a vehicle driver engages in an activity that is unrelated to the actual operation of the car, it is known as distracted driving.

Using mobile devices when driving and other distracting activities fall within the realm of distracted driving. In several studies, it has been shown that distracted driving represents a serious issue among teenage drivers, and significantly heightens the risk of car wrecks.

Reasons for Distracted Driving

  • Engaging in texting
  • Speaking on a mobile phone
  • Using mobile devices to surf the web when driving
  • Grooming, such as applying makeup, brushing their hair
  • Eating
  • Using entertainment devices to watch movies or videos
  • Partying in a vehicle, having disorderly passengers, or driving in an agitated state
  • Reading materials such as a textbook or newspaper, or checking instructions, email, or directions on mobile devices

A AAA Foundation report indicated that 15% of all teenage distracted driver crashes occur due to passengers. Texting, at 12 percent, is the second leading reason for teenage distracted driving accidents. Understanding these statistics can help assess the menace of distracted driving that continues to plague America (and the world for that matter!).

Key Facts on Teenage Drivers and Distracted Driving

Among any age group in the US, teenagers have the highest rate of car accidents. Developing safe driving behaviors right from the beginning can help not only avoid accidents due to distracted driving among teens, but it can also lay the foundation for safe driving in the general population as teenagers get older.

Statistics indicate that teenage distracted driving accidents, while alarmingly high, pale in comparison to the number of crashes involving individuals in their 20s.

This might be indicative that if teenagers do not practice safe driving behaviors, they could be more likely to be involved in distracted driving at higher speeds as they acquire driving experience and confidence. According to data by the NHTSA, distracted driving incidents increase as teens enter their 20s.

This study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surveyed teens for more than six years and found that sixty percent of teen car accidents are caused by distracted driving.

An interesting aspect of the study is that data was gathered over video using a program known as the Lytx DriveCam system. This system offered the drivers and their family weekly reports. Despite the supervision of a driver camera, incidents still occurred at a startling rate. 

How can I Assist my Teenager Avoid Distracted Driving?

A meaningful way to help prevent distracted driving in your family is by educating your household on the statistics. Distracted driving does not merely involve texting when driving. Instead, statistics indicate that more drivers are using the internet while on the road compared to texting.

There are robust on-going campaigns to educate people on the risks of texting while driving, but for some reason, they still remain busy on the web.

Music and the Negative Effect It Has on Driving

You may think that music has no effect on your driving since it doesn’t take away from your visual and manual attention. Thanks to easy syncing between phones and cars, you can put on your favorite music without ever having to touch the dial or look away from the road while driving. However, music still qualifies as a cognitive distraction.

The impact of music on drivers is particularly significant for young and inexperienced drivers. One study compared young drivers’ performance while listening to no music, calming music, and their own choice of music. When listening to their own music, young drivers were more likely to have severe driver miscalculations, driving inaccuracies, driving violations, and aggressive driving behaviors. When listening to calming music, they exhibited improved driving behavior and better driving safety.

Other Types of Audio

Audio entertainment has expanded rapidly in recent years. You can take calls through your phone’s speaker, stay engaged with an audiobook, or catch up on your favorite podcast. However, each of these activities has its own mental load—which makes them all cognitive distractions. Research indicates that phone calls on a hands-free device are not nearly as safe as most drivers think, causing a heightened crash risk.

When it comes to audiobooks and podcasts, it largely comes down to how engaging the material is and how carefully you must listen in order to enjoy it. If you’re listening to a light and easy read, you won’t worry as much about missing the occasional detail. This allows you to focus on the road more easily.

On the other hand, if you’re listening to a dense novel or non-fiction book that requires intense attention, that leaves you with very little mental energy to drive safely. When this occurs, drivers often find themselves thinking of driving as a side task, rather than a podcast or book.

How do you mitigate these risks to keep yourself and others safe? Choose your media very carefully. If you opt for a podcast, choose one that’s casual and lighthearted and that you can pop in and out of without missing too much. Avoid true crime, in-depth stories, and educational podcasts that require full attention. The same basic principles apply to audiobooks. Choose a book with a narrator you can easily understand and ensure that the book is interesting enough to keep you awake—but not so interesting that you can’t focus on the road.

It’s Not All Bad News

It isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes to audio distractions and driving. In fact, listening to music can actually improve your driving performance in some scenarios. As noted earlier, calming instrumental music can improve focus and keep drivers focused on the road.

Another study also found that music can have a positive impact on your driving skills. In this study, it was observed that music helped drivers maintain their mood while driving, regardless of obstacles or traffic. Listening to music also led to lower respiration rates and a lower likelihood of aggressive driving. Listening to music you love—as long as it’s not too loud or too fast—can help you drive more safely.

Ways to Improve Safety and Avoid Distracted Driving among Teenagers


In case your teenage driver needs to use a GPS to drive to a specific location, ask them to make it a habit of reviewing the directions prior to getting on the road so that they do not have to check the GPS constantly.

You should help them learn how to activate the text to voice feature on the mobile or vehicle. On top of this, if you don’t have a text to talk program, you can also identify an app that can read the directions on a speaker and teach your teen about it.


Speak to your teen about the importance of texting their friends before they leave home and asking them to let their friends know that they will not be able to remain in touch while on the road.

This will prevent them from texting back and forth. In addition, they should close applications that they might be tempted to use while behind the wheel. A conscious effort to do this is necessary to avoid distracted driving and the pain attributed with it.

Positive Reinforcement

Discuss the positive aspects of safe driving with your teenager and explain that they may be able to receive rebates on insurance as well as enjoy other privileges if they are safe drivers. A sense of pride can help teenage drivers value their safety and that of others on the road.

Automobile Manufacturers and Distracted Driving: Making Roads Safer for Teenagers

Buying a vehicle that helps avoid distracted driving may not be a complete solution, but it could certainly have an impact.

Car manufacturers are now developing various technologies in newer models to reduce the temptation to use mobile devices while behind the wheel among drivers. The temptation to use mobile devices when driving can be avoided by buying vehicles with built-in hands-free systems, or those that can read out GPS guidelines or texts.

Speak to a Trusted and Skilled Car Accident Attorney Today

It may be a confusing time for you if you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile crash. You may have no idea what will happen next and how to proceed. A qualified and established car accident attorney at John H. Ruby & Associates can work closely with you to protect your interests and guide you through the complex legal process. Message us online or call us today at (502) 895-2626 to arrange a free consultation with a member of our legal team.