A recent study out of Virginia Tech University has not surprisingly found that teenage drivers are much more likely to drive distracted than older drivers with more driving experience.
A study conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute proved that “novice drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk secondary tasks” such as texting on mobile devices, eating and drinking, and actively engaging in conversation with their passengers. These, and other distractions “greatly raise their risk of crashes,” researchers found.
Charlie Klauer, the group leader at the Institute’s Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety and the author of this study, states that “the increased rate of distraction among teen drivers is worrisome.” Notably, people between the ages of 15 to 20 years old make up only 6.5% of all drivers on the road — but account for 11.5% of all traffic deaths.
This finding is consistent with prior national studies on teen driving, which found that the fatality rate was four times higher in teen car crashes.
To be fair to teens, the study did find that novice drivers were actually more focused on driving in their first six months behind the wheel. But after 16 months, they were twice as likely to be distracted by tasks other than driving.
What Can Parents Do to Encourage Better Driving?
It may seem trite, but it may help for parents to sit down and discuss some better driving habits. Whether or not you live in a state that specifically prohibits texting and driving, more experienced drivers can set an example by not texting in the car. It wouldn’t hurt to remind novice drivers of the consequences of texting and driving either.
Or take a tip from “Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey, whose divorce settlement required both she and her ex-husband to use anti-texting apps while driving in order to protect their 3-year-old son.
We also recommend asking your teenage driver to sign a New Driver Contract. This can be a great way to have an open and honest discussion with your teenager about how important it is to be distraction free while operating a vehicle.