We’ve written before about teenagers and distracted driving, and how teens’ desire to stay connected via their cell phones contributes to dangerous driving behavior. Unfortunately, we weren’t even coming close to describing the many distractions available on the phones of teens who haven’t decided to avoid the risk of distracted driving.
Startling Statistics on Teen Phone Use While Driving
A study by the Liberty Mutual Insurance company and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that teenagers are getting the message that texting while driving is dangerous. But many don’t connect that danger to the use of other apps available via cell phone.
While 27 percent of teens say they text while behind the wheel, more than twice as many – two out of three teens (68 percent) – admit to using phone apps while driving.
The researchers found that approximately 80 percent of teens fundamentally view app use while driving as not distracting, Liberty Mutual says.
“Teens as a whole are saying all the right things, but implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel,” Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in the news release accompanying the 2016 report.
Favoring apps over texting is apparently a growing trend. In Liberty Mutual’s 2015 report, 55 percent of teens admitted to texting while driving and more than one in three (34 percent) said they take their eyes off the road to check apps for messages that arrive while they are driving.
The 2015 survey found that many teen drivers have a fear of missing out on social media conversations and try to stay connected, even while behind the wheel. As the world of social media has exploded, teen drivers have plenty to opportunity to turn their eyes and minds from the road to the small screen.
The 2015 survey said the most popular apps teens reported using behind the wheel included:
- Snapchat (38 percent) – Photos and videos that disappear a few seconds after the recipient views them.
- Instagram (20 percent) – Photos shared with others who follow the sender.
- Twitter (17 percent) – Short text messages and/or photos and video shared with users who follow the sender.
- Facebook (12 percent) – Text, photos and/or video, as well as live video, shared with “friends” or followers of the originator.
- YouTube (12 percent) – A video-sharing platform. Other social media messages often contain or direct recipients to YouTube videos.
In the 2016 survey, 58 percent of teens said they use navigation apps while driving and 46 percent admitted using music apps while behind the wheel.
“Today’s hyper-connected teens’ ‘fear of missing out’ can put young drivers at risk on the road as they may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” Dr. William Horrey, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, said.
Snapchat Speed Filter Allows Users to Post How Fast They Are Going
A Georgia man who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in a car crash outside of Atlanta in 2015 recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against Snapchat and the teen driver who allegedly hit him while speeding at 107 miles per hour and using Snapchat.
The lawsuit claims that the critical cause of the accident was the use of Snapchat’s mobile software. The software allows users to post photos online showing how fast their car is travelling. Snapchat rewards users that submit photos by giving them points that may lead to a trophy.
The lawsuit seeks to hold Snapchat as well as the speeding driver liable for the accident, claiming the software developer knew that crashes had occurred involving people driving at high speeds while using the Snapchat speed filter, but that Snapchat had not restricted access to it.
There have been number of accidents involving Snapchat.
In February 2016, a 17-year-old driver in southern Washington rolled her car when she clipped a slowing car in front her. The driver admitted that she was using Facetime and Snapchat while driving and didn’t realize the car in front of her was slowing.
In December 2015, three young women died in a car crash in Philadelphia. A report by WPVI-TV Action News indicated that the driver of the car was a user of Snapchat who enjoyed posting how fast she was driving on Snapchat. The uncle of one of the crash victim’s provided the television station with surveillance camera footage of the vehicle speeding down Torresdale Avenue.
Teen Drivers Are Drowsy Drivers, Too
Staying online constantly takes a toll on teen drivers’ alertness. Teenage drivers are frequently fatigued drivers, the survey finds.
The report says 52 percent of teens get fewer than 6 hours of sleep each night during the week. Nearly three quarters (70 percent) of teens admit to driving while tired, which means they are less attentive and have slower reaction times.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says anyone who isn’t getting at least 7 hours of sleep every day doubles their risk of causing a car accident. And the National Sleep Foundation says teens (age 14 to 17) should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each day and young adults (age 18 to 24) should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
An estimated 100,000 car crashes and 1,550 fatal accidents annually are a result of driver fatigue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.
Teens are inexperienced drivers. While just about any teen can learn to drive, it takes experience behind the wheel and maturity to understand how to be a safe driver.
A Wake-Up Call for Teen Drivers and Parents
Liberty Mutual’s survey shows repeatedly that teens and their parents are not on the same page when it comes to driving and distracted driving. For instance, 19 percent of teens said their parents expect a text response within one minute, and 25 percent said five minutes – even while driving. But 58 percent of parents said they have no set expectations on teens’ response time.
“Parents and teens must recognize the dangerous implications of today’s hyper-connected and overscheduled teens, and implement ways to reduce these risks on the road,” the study authors said. “It’s essential for parents and teens alike to have open and honest conversations, and set expectations around responsible driving.”
We couldn’t agree more. Taking the time to talk to your teen driver about the real dangers of every type of distracted driving could save their life, the lives of friends riding with them, or the lives of innocent drivers, passengers, pedestrians or cyclists.
Distracted driving car accidents and the destruction that comes with them are not necessary. But it is up to responsible drivers – of all ages – to keep them from happening.