Texting, Teens and Car Accidents

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 350,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 were treated in emergency departments for injuries resulting from car accidents. In fact, data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), published in a recent thesis at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, noted that for the nine years spanning 1995 to 2004 crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers claimed the lives of 30,917 people.

Many factors play a role in this disproportionate number of teen accidents, including inexperience and the use of distracting technology.

Little Experience, Overconfidence

Young drivers lack experience. In a PBS interview, David Strayer, an expert on distracted driving, explained that teen drivers first learning how to drive do not have the skills of more experienced drivers; thus, teens are not accustomed to handling the many routine tasks drivers face every day.

Based on the research cited in the Virginia Polytech thesis, novice drivers fixate on middle, faraway portions of the roadway, whereas experienced drivers tend to glance in many different directions and fixate less. Experienced drivers are also more aware of potential danger zones.

Even so, teenagers are confident in their ability to manage secondary task workload; teens were more likely to engage in things like texting and talking, even when entering an intersection.

Saturation of Technology and Driving Distractions

A 2009 New York Times article states that from 1995 to 2008, the number of wireless subscribers in the United States increased eightfold, to 270 million, and the number of minutes used has increased by a factor of 58. Moreover, new distracting audio, visual and GPS technology continues to be incorporated into vehicles. Shuffling through CDs, reading the screens of MP3 players and resetting GPS are all competing with the road for the driver's attention.

According to DWIWatch.org, a recent study states that the risk of crashing when driving while using a cell phone is four times that of a non-impaired driver, the same increase in risk for drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .08. Texting drivers carry eight times the risk of crashes when compared to a non-impaired driver. The Virginia Polytech thesis referred to a study stating that text messaging increased by 400 percent the time spent with drivers' eyes off the road and on the device.

Additional Factors

A Top Tech News article warns that nighttime driving is becoming more hazardous for teenage drivers in America. The Texas Transportation Institute issued a report stating that the proportion of fatal crashes at night involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 increased ten percent from 1999 to 2008; the percentage for drivers 20 and older rose by eight percent. While the increase in nighttime crashes in the older age group can be primarily attributed to alcohol consumption, the study authors pointed to mobile phone use, both talking and texting, as a likely cause of the increase in fatalities among younger drivers.

Studies do not find a correlation in car crashes when drivers listen to the radio or audio books. Strayer indicated this may be explained by the additional effort required for speech production, although some studies reflect a slight decrease in accident rates when there is a passenger present. A passenger who is present in the vehicle may stop talking when traffic becomes heavy, weather becomes hazardous or may help the driver with directions.

Pending Litigation

Introduced in April 2010, The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STANDUP) would require states to adopt a staged licensing program. Drivers under age 21 would be required to pass through two limited-privilege stages prior to obtaining unrestricted licenses.

Contact the Car Accident Attorneys of Smiley Law

Car accident victims should contact an experienced injury lawyer to learn about their options. Call 212-986-2022 or contact Smiley Law online to discuss your case. Whether the other driver was a teen driver, was distracted by talking or texting on a cell phone, or was otherwise negligent, that driver may be liable. Talk with an attorney to determine whether there is a claim and how best to proceed.