Although there is debate among safety advocates and researchers as to how much we can blame smartphones and other distractions for the sharp increase in traffic fatalities in recent years, no one disputes that distractions are potentially deadly and that young drivers seem particularly susceptible. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that our eyes are not deceiving us: Many drivers have their eyes on their smartphones these days, not the road.
The AAA Foundation, using eight years of crash data on teenage drivers, has found that about 12 percent of the 2,200 crashes it studied involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers involved the use of a smartphone. That was more than any other age group of drivers.
The AAA study, which was released in June, also didn’t find an increase in distractions or cellphone use — but it did reveal a shift in the way phones are being used. The study found that phones are now used less for talking in a vehicle than for texting. And it suggested that the occurrence of cellphone distractions is “much more prevalent” than police reports or governmental statistics now capture.
A different aspect of the issue was revealed in an online survey conducted in September by Autobrain, a firm that is marketing a device to allow parents or other loved ones to remotely monitor a teenage driver’s vehicle.
The survey documents what pretty much everyone already knows to be true: Parents and teens fight over driving-related issues. For example, 47 percent of all parents fought with their teenagers over some driving-related issue, and about 1 in 5 parents got into a fight with his or her teenager because the parent didn’t think the teenager was ready to drive. Another shocker: About 45 percent of parents become frustrated over their teenage driver’s habits.
But the survey also found that when it comes to modeling good behavior, parents do a lot more telling than showing. Significant percentages of adults admitted to doing things that they tell their teenagers not to do while driving, such as: eating while driving (51 percent); texting while driving (41 percent); driving after drinking alcohol (23 percent); posting something on social media while driving (15 percent) and taking a selfie while driving (13 percent).
The most curious result? One in nine parents admitted to having “hooked up” in their car — which, presumably could be anything from making out to … well, you get the idea. (An Autobrain spokeswoman also said the way the question was asked, the “hooking up” could occur in a stationary or moving vehicle. Yikes.)
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*A spokeswoman for Autobrain says the survey’s sample size was 997, including 395 whose children were between 15 and 19 years old. It was conducted Sept. 28-30, and the results were weighted for the United States.