AAA Teen Distracted Driving Study Shows Need for Cultural Shift

By Kelly Nantel

When teens crash cars, they are usually driving distracted.

That’s the conclusion of a new naturalistic study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study examined real-time video focusing on teen drivers involved in crashes. More than half – 58% – were distracted by tasks other than driving. Nearly nine of out of 10 crashes when the car ran off the road involved distraction, as did more than three of four rear-end crashes.

Distraction Roundtable flyerDr. Jurek Grabowski, Director of Research at the AAA Foundation, will be just one of many participants in NTSB’s “Disconnect from Deadly Distractions” roundtable on March 31 in Washington. The day-long series of discussions will focus on distractions in all modes of transportation.

The roundtable is structured to encourage a true dialog among attendees, where researchers, law enforcement, industry, safety advocacy groups, and regulators will be free to build on – and/or debate –findings from across modes and across disciplines.

In just a few years, the use of portable electronic devices, or PEDs, has grown explosively. Teen drivers – and all drivers – have suddenly had to contend with new distractions in transportation.

But the distractions that AAA noted in its most recent study were not limited to PEDs. Such activities as grooming and dancing also preceded several crashes.

And, as both the AAA Foundation and the NTSB have long noted, using a hands-free phone does not eliminate distraction. Even hands-free phones pose the risk of cognitive distraction. In “Roadhouse Blues” Jim Morrison sang “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” That’s good advice. But your mind must be on the driving task as well.

The same goes for operators of every kind of vehicle in transportation, from commercial motor vehicles to aircraft to ships and trains. The beauty of a multimodal discussion is that lessons learned in the cockpit or the pilothouse can be applied to the driver’s seat – or vice versa.

The NTSB-hosted roundtable discussion will cover 5 topical tracks:

  • The Science of Distraction;
  • Education, Legislation and Enforcement;
  • Technology and Engineering;
  • Policy and Regulation; and
  • Future Endeavors/Challenges.

In a culture that fosters a myth of multitasking, we will need a cultural shift to eliminate distraction in transportation. We hope that the conversation on March 31 will bring us a step closer to that shift. The roundtable is open to the public to attend and observe. Details on the event can be found at

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