A new study finds that teen drivers are far more likely to be distracted than older, more experienced motorists.
Researchers at Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute found that "novice drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk secondary tasks" such as dialing cell phones, eating, and even chatting with passengers. These distractions "greatly raise their risk of crashes," researchers found.
How can drivers protect themselves in light of this study?
Teen, Novice Drivers Prove Dangerous
Charlie Klauer, group leader at the Institute's Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety and author of the study, states that increased rate of distraction among teens is "worrisome." Notably, people 15 to 20 years of age make up only 6.4 percent of drivers on the road -- but account for 11.4 percent of traffic fatalities.
This finding seems 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, reports Virginia Tech News.
Combine this finding with the lack of liability on the part of teen drivers, and you have a potentially dangerous and expensive combination.
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.
Car owners who are lending their cars to teens can also purchase and encourage use of a hands-free cell phone system. The Virginia Tech study found that unlike texting, simply talking on the phone while driving was not a significant distraction to drivers, reports The Associated Press.
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.
Teen drivers will eventually become adults -- hopefully adults with safe driving habits.