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How distracted is your teen in the car?

There are some things in life, where you suspect that something is bad, but you don't have specific evidence that supports your suppositions. Distracted driving is one of those things. We all notice other drivers on their cellphones and we suspect that many car accidents are triggered by these drivers.

But the numerical evidence has shown that it only appears to be an issue in a small percentages of crashes. This is now changing, and it appears that your gut feeling may be more accurate than the previous numbers.

This is because identifying accidents where distracted driving, say due to texting, were difficult to sort out from all of the other causes.

A vehicle could miss a curve or slide through an icy intersection, and speeding or weather may be listed on the police report as the cause, even though the driver lost control because they were inattentive and distracted by their phone.

And a driver may not want to admit to the distraction and with fatal car accidents, determining the cause may be more difficult, as you can never ask the driver what they were doing.

A new report from the AAA foundation found that for teen drivers, distraction is a factor in 58 percent of crashes, with a shocking 89 percent of "road departure" crashes involving distraction. Similarly, for rear-end crashes; distraction played a role in 76 percent of those crashes. Other passengers and cellphones were the leading causes of distraction.

This data was obtained by using cameras in the vehicle to observe teen driver behavior. It allowed researchers to watch teens driving and analyze their habits. In crashes, drivers were distracted for 4.1 of the last 6 second before a crash.

Almost a million teens are involved in car accidents every year and in 2013, more than 2,800 died. This study suggests that much more must be done to change teen driver's relationship to distracting behavior while behind the wheel.

AAA.com, "Distraction and Teen Crashes: Even Worse than We Thought," Michael Green, March 25, 2015

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