New Jerseyans believe cell phone distraction is the biggest reason for teen driver crashes

HAMILTON, NJ – New teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This alarming finding comes as the “100 Deadliest Days” begin, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year. Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during this deadly period.

 

According to the New Jersey State Police as of 10:00 a.m. on May 31, 2017 there have been 8 fatalities on New Jersey roadways involving drivers and passengers 20 years of age and younger. In 2015 and 2016 those numbers totaled 39 and 34 respectively for the entire year.

“Statistics show that teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and on the road,” said Tracy E. Noble, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road could create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest study, Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age, analyzes crash rates per mile driven for all drivers and found that for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are:

  • 3.9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a crash
  • 2.6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal crash
  • 4.5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a crash
  • 3.2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal crash

Fatal teen crashes are on the rise. The number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2015 crash data, the latest data available.

Three factors that commonly result in deadly crashes for teen drivers are:

  • Distraction: Distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smart phone.
  • Not Buckling Up: In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash.
  • Speeding: Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. A recent AAA survey of driving instructors found that speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.

New Jerseyans Polled about Teen Drivers

In a recent survey of New Jersey drivers, AAA Mid-Atlantic found that 49 percent of those surveyed thought that the biggest reason for teen driving crashes was distraction by cell phone. That 49 percent was higher than other reasons (lack of driving experience, distraction by passengers, and drinking and driving) combined. When asked what the best way to prevent teen driver crashes was, 46 percent of respondents believe combining stronger penalties for distracted driving, more active guidance by parents, more practice behind the wheel, and more driver education was the answer.

Currently, New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law does not address the all the steps necessary to build a solid driving foundation. But, there is pending legislation (S-2335) that would expand supervised driving requirements, increasing the phase to one year and create mandated driving hours (including 10 nighttime hours). These changes are necessary to keep our roadways safe and have the support of New Jersey motorists.

In a separate, 2015 AAA Clubs of New Jersey Poll, AAA found that 77 percent of respondents believe that New Jersey should join the other 46 states in requiring practice hours before receiving a full license, a provision included in S-2335.

“The best way to learn to be a safe driver, is behind the wheel with an engaged supervising driver,” Noble said. “Our survey shows that motorists feel the same way and the only way to ensure that teens are getting practice time behind the wheel is to make it part of the GDL requirements.”

To keep roads safer this summer, AAA encourages parents to:

  • Have conversations with their teens early and often about distraction and speeding.
  • Teach by example and minimize risky behavior when driving.
  • Make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.

TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills. AAA also offers membership discounts for new teen drivers to help keep them safe on the road in case of an emergency.

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org