‘Multitasking’ teen drivers at higher risk of road accidents

Washington, Jan 02: A new study has found that novice teen drivers are at greater risk of road accidents because they multi-task at higher frequency rates – dialing cell phones, eating, and talking to passengers, etc.

“Novice drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk secondary tasks more frequently over time as they became more comfortable with driving,” Charlie Klauer, group leader for teen risk and injury prevention at the transportation institute’s Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety, said.

“The increasingly high rates of secondary task engagement among newly licensed novice drivers in our study are worrisome as this appears to be an important contributing factor to crashes or near-crashes,” the study’s first author said.

Traffic studies site that drivers from 15 years to 20 years of age represent 6.4 percent of all motorists on the road, but account for 11.4 percent of fatalities and 14 percent of police-reported crashes resulting in injuries.

Interaction with cell phones and other handheld electronic devices have garnered the most public and media interest, but even the simplest distractions can put a young driver at risk.

Klauer and her research team found that likely dangerous distractions for new drivers- versus experienced motorists- include handling of a cell phone to dial or text, reaching away from the steering wheel, looking at something alongside the road, and eating.

Klauer said any secondary task that takes the novice driver’s eyes off the road increases risk. A distracted driver is unable to recognize and respond to road hazards, such as the abrupt slowing of a lead vehicle or the sudden entrance of a vehicle, pedestrian, or object onto the forward roadway.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (ANI)