Study highlights risks of teen distracted driving during summer season

Research shows distraction is a factor in over half of teen car crashes and that accidents involving these drivers may be especially common during summer.

Car accidents involving teenage drivers are a significant source of concern for parents in Mount Laurel as well as motorists who share the road with these young drivers. According to the Office of the Attorney General, teens in New Jersey play a role in crashes more frequently than drivers of any other age. An accident involving a teenage driver occurs in some part of the state roughly every 10 minutes.

Alarmingly, new research indicates that driver distraction may be a common factor in these crashes. Furthermore, the risk of serious car accidents involving teens may be especially high during the summer driving season.

A dangerous season

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released the results of a study of teen drivers that spanned eight years. AAA researchers worked with the University of Iowa to analyze videos that were taken in the vehicles of teenagers just before they were involved in crashes. According to KSL News, this review produced the following findings:

  • Summer is an especially dangerous season for teen drivers. Over the past five years, summertime accidents involving these drivers have claimed over 5,000 lives.
  • In roughly two-thirds of these accidents, the victims were other drivers.
  • Almost 60 percent of these accidents involved teenagers who were driving while distracted.

The study also suggests that teenage distracted driving is becoming an increasingly serious problem. Just over the last five years, the number of fatal teen crashes that occurred each day during summer rose 16 percent, as Fox News reports.

Understanding teen distraction

The researchers also examined the common causes of teen distraction and found that cellphone use wasn't the most prevalent problem. According to KSL News, in about 12 percent of the crashes, teenagers were distracted with their cellphones. However, in 15 percent of the accidents, the source of distraction was other people in the vehicle.

As Fox News notes, passengers may be a more dangerous distraction for teens because, unlike cellphones, they create an ongoing diversion that drivers can't control. Research shows that teen drivers are up to 44 percent more likely to be involved in fatal crashes when they are driving with passengers. Another study shows that loud conversations on the part of passengers increase the likelihood of a teen needing to take evasive action to avoid a crash six-fold.

Risk in New Jersey

Here in New Jersey, probationary license laws, which apply to teens during their first year of licensed driving, aim to address many common causes of distracted driving accidents. According to materials from the Office of the Attorney General, teenagers who hold probationary licenses can only have one non-dependent passenger when they are driving alone. Additionally, teens are prohibited from using any handheld electronic devices, including cellphones.

Although these provisions represent an important step toward reducing teen car crashes, many accidents may still occur when teenagers ignore these rules or engage in other dangerous behaviors while at the wheel. Fortunately, legal remedies may be available to the victims of these needless accidents. Accident victims or their surviving loved ones may benefit from speaking with an attorney for advice on their rights and their options for pursuing redress.