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Distracted driving, visual inattention, and crash risk among teenage drivers

Distracted driving resulting from secondary task engagement is a major contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes among teenage drivers. This study used naturalistic driving data to determine the extent to which visual inattention while conducting secondary tasks contributes to teenage driver crash risk.

Data were collected between 2010 to 2014 from 82 newly licensed teenagers (53% female) with an average age of 16.48. All participants lived in Virginia, U.S. A data acquisition system was installed in the participants’ private vehicles to document driving kinematics and miles driven, while also recorded a video recording of the driver and driving environment. The analysis of secondary task engagement was based on 6-second video segments from both crashes and random samples of normal driving.

Data revealed that drivers engaged in at least one secondary task in 51% of crashes and 56% of baseline segments. Interaction with a passenger was the most common secondary task, occurring in 21% of both crash and baseline events. This was followed by talking or singing (not with a passenger) at 17% and external distraction (i.e., looking outside at billboards, signs, other vehicles) at 10%. The manual use of cellphones was twice as prevalent in crashes at 10% compared with baseline at 5%. Lastly, reaching/handling objects in the vehicle was more than 3.5 times as prevalent in crashes (11%) compared with baseline (3%).

Results indicate that manual cellphone use and reaching/handling objects while driving were the only secondary tasks associated with increased crash risk among those tasks included in this study. The duration of eyes off the road accounted for 41% of the crash risk associated with manual cellphone use and 10% with reaching/handling objects while driving.

Gershon, P., Sita, K. R., Zhu, C., Ehsani, J. P., Klauer, S. G., Dingus, T. A., & Simons-Morton, B. G. (2019). Distracted driving, visual inattention, and crash risk among teenage drivers. American journal of preventive medicine.

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