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Teen drivers and electronic distractions: A problem on the rise

By Alpert Schreyer on May 17, 2016

DCMD - Distracted Driver_thumbAs we become increasingly tied to our devices and spend less time fully in the here-and-now, it becomes more and more important to learn when to put our devices away when they distract us from things that require our attention. Teens are especially attached to their phones and resistant to putting them away while driving, sometimes with tragic consequences.

A study released in March 2015 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows cell phone use to be one of the most common causes of driver distraction, which caused 56 percent of the1,691 crashes involving 16 -to 19-year-olds analyzed by researchers.

While paying attention to passengers topped the list of distractions at 14.9 percent, cell phone use — which usually happened when the driver was alone in the car — was a factor in 11.9 percent of all crashes.


Teens may feel less of a need to connect with others electronically when they have company, the authors said, or “perhaps drivers are more willing to engage in certain ‘risky’ behaviors when they are alone than when they have passengers in the vehicle.”

As the study shows, deciding to use one’s cell phone while driving is stigmatized for good reason. But that stigma makes it a more difficult behavior to study.

Previous studies may have underestimated the harm caused by teen drivers’ cell phone use, the authors said, because new drivers don’t want to own up to a practice known to be risky.

A deadly addiction?

As anyone who has ever felt ignored because someone didn’t text them back is well aware, compulsions to check one’s cell phone can be powerful and frequent. What happens when we get these compulsions while driving? Even though they know it’s unsafe, many teens and adults yield to these urges, their common sense overwhelmed by their anxieties.

Cell phone use affects our brains in much the same way as do gambling and gaming, Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, told the Huffington Post in June 2015.

When someone checks their phone frequently — whether eager to see how many “likes” their most recent Facebook status update received or if their significant other has texted back — it’s an attempt to stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, Greenfield said. His research shows that most people admit they text and drive, even though they know it’s not safe.

Driving puts teens in harm’s way, and it’s important that they learn defensive driving as well as the risks of driving distracted.  Modern technology sometimes makes it difficult for adults to drive without distraction and set a good example for young drivers, but it is important to always be aware and alert when you are in the drivers seat.  If you or your teenager have been involved in a car crash due to a negligent party’s actions, the Maryland teen driving accident lawyers at Alpert Schreyer can help your family receive proper compensation and aid for the losses incurred.




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