A study published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine examines driver distractedness as it relates to car accidents.
According to the study, although drivers aged 15-20 years old make up only 6.4% of drivers on the road, they are involved in 10% of all car accidents, and 14% of car accidents resulting in injury. Additionally 9% of all drivers on the road are driving while dialing or talking on a cellphone, or while receiving and sending texts.
I’ve learned to be hyper-vigilant at spotting drivers who are using their cellphones — if I see a teenager behind the wheel looking down, even for a moment, I drop back behind them, or pull into another lane. Based on the study, that’s a very good strategy.
Teen drivers are more likely to drive into the middle of an intersection or drift into another lane if they are distracted by their cellphones, if they’re eating in the car, if they’re adjusting the radio or the HVAC system — basically, if they’re doing anything but driving and looking straight ahead they’re putting themselves and everyone else on the road with them at risk.
Experienced drivers are not as easily distracted — dialing a cellphone and/or texting increases risk of accident, but that’s about it — talking on a cellphone didn’t increase risk.
Still, I’m not taking any chances.