Drivers spend ten percent of their time behind a wheel eating, texting and taking their eyes of the road increasing their risk of a crash, especially among newly-licensed teen drivers.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech found that newly-licensed teen drivers were more likely to be involved in a crash or a near-miss while engaging in secondary tasks as compared to adults.
The study analyzed drivers in the Washington D.C. area and in southwestern Virginia, the findings of which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road can be dangerous,” said study co-author Bruce Simons-Morton. “But our study shows these distracting practices are especially risky for novice drivers, who haven’t developed sound safety judgment behind the wheel.”
The researchers studied video footage from cameras placed in the cars of 150 people, a quarter of whom were novices who had received licenses in the last three weeks. The remaining drivers were on average aged 18 to 72 and had 20 years of experience driving a car. The footage helped them record acceleration, sudden braking or swerving, drifting from a lane and other data.
Experienced adults were found to be twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when making a call as compared to when they weren't, but did not have an increased risk while engaging in other secondary activities.
Researchers found that distracted driving significantly increased the risks for new drivers. Compared to when they were not involved in secondary tasks, novice drivers were eight times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing and four times more likely when texting.
“Our data support the current trend in implementing restrictions on texting and cell phone use in vehicles,” said Simons-Morton. “As new forms of technology increasingly are available in cars, it’s important that drivers don’t feel compelled to answer every incoming call or text."
[NIH] [Virginia Tech]