Studies have already revealed that teens are dangerous behind the wheel. A new in-car video study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provides a deeper look into why. Cell phones, texting, personal grooming and reaching for things in the car were among the most common distracting activities found when cameras were put in new teen drivers' cars, according to AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "This new study provides the best view we've had about how and when teens engage in distracted driving behaviors believed to contribute to making car crashes the leading cause of death for teenagers."

For the study, “Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers,” researchers at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center identified the prevalence and consequences of various distracted driver behaviors and distracting conditions among teens during high g-force maneuvers such as swerving, hard braking or rapid acceleration.

The leading cause of distraction for all teens is the use of electronic devices, which was seen in seven percent of the video clips analyzed. The biggest perpetrators are female teens. Females were nearly twice as likely as males to use an electronic device while driving. Also, female teens were nearly 10 percent more likely to be observed engaging in the other distracted behaviors identified in the study—reaching for an object in the vehicle (nearly 50 percent more likely than males) and eating or drinking (nearly 25 percent more likely). Males were roughly twice as likely to turn around in their seats while driving and were also more likely to communicate with people outside of the vehicle.

"The gender differences with regard to distraction observed in this study raise some points that we'll want to investigate in future projects," Kissinger said. "Every insight we gain into driver behavior has the potential to lead us to new risk management strategies."

The data for this report came from an analysis of video clips collected as part of a three-phase naturalistic study of 50 North Carolina families with novice teen drivers.

For the full report, click here.

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