Reaching for objects while driving may cause 7-fold increase in risk of teen car crashes

Teenagers who reach for objects, such as food or makeup, while driving increase their risk of crashing nearly seven times, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, online Feb. 21, 2019. Also, manually dialing, texting or browsing the web on a phone while driving doubled the risk of vehicle crash.

The current study is the first to use real-time driving data to quantify the extent to which visual inattention — the amount of time a teen’s eyes shift from the road to various distractions — contributes to the risk of a crash.

Researchers followed 82 newly licensed teen drivers in Virginia over a one-year period, equipping their vehicles with cameras and GPS technology to track the driver’s activity and environment.

After one year, 43 of the drivers did not experience a crash, while 25 had one crash and 14 had two or more crashes.

Using six-second videos of driver behavior prior to a crash, researchers calculated that for every second that a teen’s eyes were off the road, the risk of a crash increased by 28% regardless of the type of distraction.

In addition to documenting a driver’s dialing, texting, browsing or reaching for a phone, researchers assessed numerous “secondary tasks,” including dancing to music, attending to personal hygiene, and eating or drinking. The greatest crash risks were found to be from visual distractions related to using cell phones and reaching for objects.

  • Teens manually using a cell phone doubled their odds of crashing.
  • Teens who were reaching for something while driving increased their risk nearly 7-fold, which researchers attributed to a combination of distractions, including taking their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel.

In India, fatal road accident victims largely constitute young people in the productive age groups. Young adults in the age group of 18-45 years accounted for 72.1% of victims during 2017.

Several factors like inexperience, distracted driving, reckless driving, impaired driving, driving with other teen passengers put the young driver at greater risk of vehicle accidents.

The study authors suggest that teenage drivers may benefit from technological and behavioral interventions that will keep their eyes on the road at all times and discourage engagement in distracting secondary tasks.

 (Source: NIH, Feb. 25, 2019)

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