“Science Shot: Teen Drivers More Likely to Crash Due to Noisy Friends Than to Cellphones”

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The Story

“Science Shot: Teen Drivers More Likely to Crash Due to Noisy Friends Than to Cellphones”
by Jill U. Adams
Science, April 18, 2014

The Pitch

A paper published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that loud conversations and horseplay with passengers are more likely to cause an accident than cell phones in teenage drivers.

The study installed video cameras — looking inside the car to driver and passengers and out the front window for driving situations — and g-force data collection to follow 52 newly licensed high school students for 6 months. Using cell phones, fiddling with vehicle controls, eating and drinking were not strongly related to serious incidents, which included collisions and evasive maneuvers. However, when passengers in the car are engaged in loud conversation, the teen drivers were six times more likely to have a serious incident. Horseplay in the car increased risk by a a factor of three.

I believe accident data collected by insurance companies is the reason that so many states place restrictions on how many passengers can be in the car with a newly licensed driver. This naturalistic study reveals the reason why, the mechanism, if you will, that underlies that accident data.

I’d talk to study author Rob Foss, at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, and an outside source, such as David Strayer, at the University of Utah, who has worked to quantify various in-car distractions.


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