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Distracted driving is still a problem for teens

Like drunk driving, distracted driving remains a pervasive problem despite widespread efforts to warn drivers, particularly teen drivers, of its dangers. Teens are more likely to text or talk on their phone while driving, numerous studies have shown. And new data reveals that distracted driving plays a role in the vast majority of rear-end collisions involving teens.

Recent study reinforces danger of smartphone use

According to a new study by the Transportation Vehicle Safety Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, teens are more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors than other segments of the population, and they tend to be overconfident of their ability to drive while distracted - leading many to text and drive at inappropriate times and increasing crash risk.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Safety Research, used in-car video of actual teen drivers to find that in 75 percent of rear-end collisions, distraction played a role. These distractions included phone use, talking to passengers or other activity that took their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. In 50 percent of cases, they did not brake in time or steer to avoid a collision, the researchers further noted.

The study looked at over 400 rear-end collisions involved drivers aged 16 to 19 over five years. These findings suggest that distracted driving plays an even larger role in car accidents than previously suggested by federal data.

Social norms must change

According to lead author Cher Carney, no one solution is likely to stop distracted driving. However, in an email to Reuters, who reported on the study, she noted that a similar social movement aimed at preventing drunk driving needs to be made to curb distracted driving. "A generation ago, it was socially okay to drink and drive - now it is not," Carney said.

That is certainly the intention behind many of the public service announcements and other warnings aimed at preventing distracted driving, regardless of the age of the driver. It is not safe for anyone to text and drive. Unfortunately, however, teen drivers seem more prone to the behavior.

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