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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Nation/World

Teenage Girls More Likely to Text and Drive

The AAA Foundation conducted an in-car camera study which showed distracted driving varied by gender and other factors.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study Monday that found that teen girls were twice as likely as teen boys to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

Electronic devices were the most frequently recorded distractions for young drivers--with them appearing in seven percent of all footage recorded-- but multiple other forms of distractions were noted as well.

"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,” AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said.

"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,” he added.

The study is the first of its kind to use in-car video filming to focus on teen distracted driving.

The UNC Highway Safety Research Center analyzed the footage to identify how common certain distracting behaviors are and what their consequences were which included "high g-force maneuvers such as swerving, hard braking, or rapid acceleration."

Their analysis showed that distracting behaviors were more common among the older teens surveyed, indicating their higher level of confidence and comfort behind the wheel.

While females were shown to be twice as likely as males to use an electronic device, they also were shown as almost 10 percent more likely to be engage in other distracted behaviors. These included reaching for an object in the vehicle-- which they were 50 percent more likely to do than males-- and eating or drinking while driving, which they were almost 25 percent more likely to do than teen boys.

Males, however, were about twice as likely to turn around in their seats while operating a motor vehicle and were also found to be more likely than females to communicate with others outside of their car.

Also noted in the study was the effect passengers had on distracting behavior. When parents or adults were present, teens were less likely to engage in potentially distracting activities.

In comparison, distracting behavior was measured as being more than twice as likely to happen when several teens were present. These behaviors included horseplay and loud conversations, which concerned researchers.

Drivers were shown to be six times as likely to have a serious accident when a loud conversation was occurring in their vehicle. They were also shown to be twice as likely to have a high g-force event, such as near-collisions or events involving hard braking or swerving, when horseplay was taking place in their car.

Traffic crashes are among the leading causes of death for young Americans, and the AAA Foundation has a compilation of information on teen driver safety which can be found on their website.

COMMENTS

For both genders its still the primary communication tool of choice. I read that 94% of drivers think Text and Drive is lethal but over one third still do it. What to do? I think legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I just read that over 3/4 of teens text daily - many text more than 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences those irresistible call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner
OTTER app
“do one thing well... be great.”

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