Are you safe at the construction jobsite with distracted drivers behind the wheel? In one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind, cameras embedded in cars have been used to study teen driving habits, and the results indicate distracted driving is a far more serious issue than we previously thought.

The study, carried out by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, www.aaafoundation.org, found distracted driving to be a factor in almost six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes – four times as many as previous official estimates, which were based on police reports.

Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle event recorders. The results showed that distraction was a factor in 58% of all crashes studied – including 89% of road departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes. NHTSA, (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.) www.nhtsa.gov, previously has estimated distraction is a factor in only 14% of all teen driver crashes.

The most common form of distractions leading up to a crash by a teen driver included interaction with passengers (15%), cellphone usage (12%), looking at something in the vehicle (9%), singing or moving to music (8%), and reaching for object in the car (6%).

Researchers found that drivers using their cellphones had their eyes of the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final 6 seconds leading up to the crash. Researchers also measured reaction times in rear-end crashes and found teen drivers using a cellphone failed to react more than half of the time before the impact, meaning they crashed without braking or steering.

The GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws allow new drivers to gain practical experience in a relatively safe environment by restricting their exposure to risky situations. Thirty-three states have laws that prevent cellphone use for teens and 18 states have passenger restrictions meeting AAA’s recommendations.

According to AAA teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. Roughly 963,000 drivers the age of 16-19 were involved in police reported crashes in 2013—the most recent year of available data. These crashes resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths.

States are using a combination of engineering, education, and enforcement solutions to combat the problem. Education is key to helping drivers understand how to safely use connected devices and infotainment systems while driving. It is also key in helping them make decisions about when to refrain from device use all together. Only through continued education, along with innovative device and solution engineering and law enforcement, will roadways and highways be both safe and connected.

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