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New Teen Distracted Driving Survey's Findings Conflict with Other Studies

A new Consumer Reports survey adds to the ongoing discussion on distracted driving among teens, but a few findings conflict with recent studies from Bridgestone and AAA. For example, Consumer Reports says concern for distracted driving led many teens to “stop or reduce such behavior,” but Bridgestone found that although young drivers between the ages of 15 and 21 know what distracted driving is, many don’t believe that they are at risk and continue to practice bad driving habits. Consumer Reports also found that the presence of peers can reduce distracted driving. AAA, however, found a strong correlation between the age and number of passengers in a car and the likelihood of a teen dying in a crash.

The Consumer Reports survey took a nationally representative sample of drivers ages 16 to 21, and found that while the majority of teens know that texting, talking on a cell phone, accessing the Internet or using smartphone applications while driving is dangerous, they practice these habits anyway.

“Almost half of the respondents said they had talked on a handheld phone while driving in the previous 30 days,” writes Consumer Reports. “Close to 30 percent said they had texted in that time. And some had operated smart-phone apps (8 percent) or used e-mail or social media (7 percent) while behind the wheel.”

Consumer Reports says having peers in a vehicle with a teen driver can decrease distracted driving. But Inside Line writes that “a new AAA study points to a strong link between the number of passengers in a vehicle and the risk of a teen dying in a crash,” which conflicts with Consumer Reports’ finding. According to AAA, “the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver being killed in a crash, per mile driven, increases with each additional young passenger in the vehicle.” With just one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers), the risk increases to 44 percent, and quadruples with three or more passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers).

Though Consumer Reports, Bridgestone and AAA add different perspectives to the problem of distracted driving among teens, each has a common theme. Multitasking while driving is dangerous, and the best way to prevent accidents and deaths is for teens to put down their cell phones and for parents, guardians and peers to step in when their driver is distracted.

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