There is little question that distracted driving is dangerous. Taking one’s eyes off the road for any reason carries a grave risk not only to the driver and passengers, but to everyone else traveling nearby.
We also know that teens are notoriously prone to behind-the-wheel distraction. But a new study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that while youthful drivers start off working hard to be careful, they are soon thrown off course by their propensity to try to multitask.
Of course, multitasking is practically a way of life in America, with people juggling so many daily obligations and trying to fit as much in a 24-hour span as possible. But our injury attorneys in Montgomery highlight this new study because it illustrates just how vulnerable teen drivers are when they engage in this behavior.
But older drivers aren’t necessarily off the hook. The study revealed that while more experienced motorists do better with eating or speaking to passengers while behind the wheel (both more dangerous for younger drivers), dialing cell phones is risky for those in all age groups.
Still, it seems younger drivers were more willing to test the limits of their skill soon after becoming licensed drivers. Though graduated driver’s license programs are designed to give teens time to improve driving skills, researchers found it only took six months for new drivers to begin engaging in numerous distractions.
Those distractions included texting, but also eating, playing with the radio and talking to passengers. While these things aren’t safe for older drivers either, there is no question that with thousands of hours more experience, these individuals are less likely to crash than their younger counterparts.
Researchers culled data from two smaller studies. The first of those followed nearly four dozen drivers who were newly-licensed. The other followed about 100 drivers who were deemed to have more experience.
In each study, participants agreed to have their personal vehicles affixed with cameras and sensors, so as to track their driving habits. The sensors were able to detect accidents and even close calls. Those results were then compared to the video data, which revealed what drivers were doing in the moments before the crash – or near crash.
Crashes involving intoxicated drivers or those that were the fault of the other driver weren’t factored into the data. But a large number of the rest involved some type of distraction.
Researchers found that while talking on the phone wasn’t a major problem, dialing a number put all drivers at grave risk. Same with texting.
The study authors posited that while talking doesn’t require one to tear their eyes from the task at hand, texting and dialing does. Researchers concluded that this kind of analysis shows that it makes sense to legislate further restrictions on cell phone use in cars, particularly for youthful drivers.
In Alabama, while texting is prohibited for all drivers, all cell phone usage is banned for drivers 16 and 17 and for those who received their license within the last six months. Both are deemed primary offenses, meaning a police officer could stop a driver solely for that reason.
The researchers acknowledged the relatively small sample size of the study and stressed the need for further analysis. One study is in the works that is following the driving habits of some 2,000 people. It’s not clear exactly when the results of that research will be released.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a car accident attorney in Alabama today.
When Teen Drivers Multitask, They’re Even Worse Than Adults, Jan. 1, 2014, By Maanvi Singh, NPR
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University of Alabama Student Blamed for Fatal Traffic Accident, Jan. 2, 2014, Birmingham Car Accident Lawyer Blog