Distracted Driving Account for 60% of Teen Crashes

Distracted driving to blame for many teen driving accidents

It may come as no surprise that teenage drivers have a higher rate of car crashes in Utah than any other age group. In fact, teenage drivers are 1.7 times more likely to be in a car crash. Teen drivers lack experience and defensive driving skills. Above all, teenage drivers are prone to distraction by friends, music and smartphones.

According to a Utah Department of Transportation report, teens were involved in 10,852 crashes in 2013. About 5,000 people were injured and another 26 lost their lives. Distracted driving accounts for 60 percent of teen crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Teenagers account for 8 percent of all licensed divers in Utah, yet are responsible for nearly 20 percent of all car crashes caused by distracted driving.

While technology plays a big role in distracted driving, it is not the only source of distraction for teen drivers. Passengers are another major source of distraction for young drivers. Teenagers driving cars with three or more teenage passengers are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Peer pressure, loud music and distracting interactions pull attention away from the road.

Fortunately, the number of accidents involving teenage drivers is decreasing. Between 2004 and 2013, the number of teenage driver accidents decreased by 44 percent.

Distracted Driving May Result In Criminal and Civil Liability

In Utah, it is illegal for all drivers to use handheld wireless devices while driving. Utah Code 41-6a-1716 prohibits all texting, instant messaging and emailing while driving. Utah law also prohibits drivers from dialing phone numbers, accessing the Internet, viewing or recording video or entering data into a smart phone.

However, drivers may use smart phones for voice communication, GPS or other voice operated technology. Drivers can also use their smartphones in the event of a medical emergency and to report safety hazards or criminal activity.

Teenage girl driving and looking at her phone…

Drivers caught using their smart phones while driving face a Class C misdemeanor and a $100.00 fine. If a driver causes serious bodily injury and the accident is the result of distracted driving, the driver faces a Class B misdemeanor.

Distracted teen drivers may also be responsible for any property damage or injuries they cause.

Avoiding Driving Distractions

Teen drivers can avoid car accidents caused by distracted driving. First, teen drivers should make adjustments to their seats and mirrors before putting the car in motion. If there are loose books, water bottles or other personal belongings, teen drivers should secure those items.  In addition, teen drivers should finish grooming and dressing before getting behind the wheel.

Teens should avoid using smart phones and other technologies in the car. Smart phones should be stored in the driver’s pocket, purse or other location where it will not be a distraction. If the teen needs to use his or her smart phone for GPS, they should plug in the address before putting the car into motion. The same idea also applies to music. Teen drivers should select an album or playlist while they are parked.

While nothing can replace maturity and years of driving practice, teen drivers can prevent car accidents caused by staying focused on the road. If you are the parent of a teen driver, have a conversation with them about the consequences of distracted driving. More importantly, set a good example with your own driving.