Brace Yourself: Teen Driving Habits Get Worse over Time

Guest Bloggers

Guest Bloggers | Jan 16, 2014

If you have teenagers in the house, we assume you’ve had The Talk. You know -- where you explain that if you ever catch them using their phones while driving, they’ll be grounded until Justin Bieber is in Depends.

But it’s time to have that talk again … and again. Because a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests teens actually pay attention to the road when they first start driving. It’s only a few months later, as they get more accustomed to being behind the wheel, that they begin to view driving time as an existential emptiness to be filled with texts, tweets, and “OMG I’m sooo driving!” selfies.

(Twitter, edited to obfuscate identifying details)

How’d researchers figure this out? It was pretty sneaky, actually. They equipped cars with radar, GPS, cameras and other devices to see what novice drivers were up to. Then they tracked the results for over a year.

Here’s what they found: Dialing a phone was the most dangerous thing for young drivers to do – making an accident or near-accident 8.3 times more likely. Other distractions included:

  • Reaching for an object other than a phone (8 times greater risk)
  • Reaching for the phone (7.1)
  • Looking at something on the side of the road (3.9)
  • Eating (3)
  • Drinking a nonalcoholic beverage (1.4)
  • Listening to Car Talk (0.5)

Note that listening to Car Talk actually made driving safer. (Teen drivers who turned on the radio, only to discover our show, actually pulled over and fled the vehicle.)

Okay, so that’s a lie. But, the other stats are legit, and that’s cause for concern.

Want to discourage the kids you love from distracted driving? We’ve got bad news: researchers say modeling good behavior is key. That means no putting on lipstick, tying your tie, or checking the newspaper to see how your investment in Panamanian pork belly futures is doing while you’re driving – and you might want to ease the volume down on that Justin Bieber song you’re blasting, too.

What's the most egregious teen driving you've seen lately?

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