Distracted driving may still be a prevalent habit for Missouri teens

New research shows that teen drivers still engage in various distractions, and a large proportion of accidents may be attributable to these risky habits.

Distracted driving among teenagers is a source of concern for parents and anyone else who shares the road with these young drivers. In Kansas City and other parts of Missouri, drivers under age 21 are banned from texting while driving. Unfortunately, new research suggests that these drivers still engage in numerous other distractions and experience a high rate of related motor vehicle accidents.

The most dangerous distractions

A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which was based on dashboard camera recordings, recently helped highlight the role of distraction in teen accidents. According to CBS News, researchers analyzed videos that were taken during the moments before 1,700 accidents involving teen drivers occurred. The researchers found that 58 percent of moderate to severe accidents involved distraction.

Passengers were the most common reason that teens diverted their attention from driving. The other leading distraction was cell phone use. Troublingly, in half of the rear-end collisions that researchers observed, teens who were using cell phones never even braked or took evasive action. This put teens and other road users at greater risk for more severe crashes.

Encouragingly, a second study shows that, although texting may still contribute to many teen accidents, it is becoming less common. According to National Public Radio, the Oregon State University study found that just 40 percent of teens texted while driving. This is a lower percentage than reported in previous studies. However, the teens surveyed did report engaging in various other distractions while driving, including:

  • Putting on clothes
  • Changing shoes
  • Doing homework
  • Putting on makeup
  • Changing contact lenses

Some of these distractions were surprisingly common. For example, over one-quarter of teens reported changing clothes or shoes while driving. Unfortunately, these activities may be just as dangerous as texting, since they require visual or manual input and mental attention. These factors can increase the risk that teen drivers will miss important cues and fail to take necessary action to avoid an accident.

Accident outlook in Missouri

Besides banning texting, Missouri traffic laws prevent newly licensed teens from driving with more than one other teenage passenger. However, after six months, teens may drive with up to three other teenagers. Additionally, a number of the distractions mentioned in the Oregon State University study are not explicitly outlawed. Therefore, the risk of distraction-related accidents may remain substantial.

In 2013, drivers under age 21 were involved in 28,980 accidents in Missouri, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Statistical Analysis Center. Out of these accidents, there were 7,679 reported injury crashes that harmed 11,852 people and claimed 124 lives. If the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety findings are reliable, thousands of these injuries and accidents may have involved distracted driving.

Wrongful injuries and recourse

Since the number of injuries reported in Missouri exceeds the number of injury crashes, it is clear that teen drivers aren't the only people who suffer harm in these accidents. When teens are distracted or otherwise negligent, innocent road users and passengers may also sustain injuries. In these situations, injury victims may benefit from seeking legal advice and discussing options for pursuing compensation.

Keywords: distracted, driving, accident, injury