New driver in the family? If it's your daughter, you may be wise to remind her not to use her cellphone in the car.
The advice is good for everyone in the family, but a new study suggests that teen girls are twice as likely as teen boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving — and that can spell disaster on the road.
AAA Foundation, a driver safety group, installed video cameras in the cars of 52 teens who had just received their driving permits and then came back when the same teens had been licensed and driving on their own for about six months. Cameras recorded continuously, but only saved data for 10 seconds before and after a car swerved or the brakes were suddenly applied. The study provided nearly 8,000 video clips.
Only 15 percent of the incidents involved a distraction of some type, suggesting that kids already have enough trouble behind the wheel.
"Cellphones, texting, personal grooming and reaching for things in the car were among the most common distracting activities," Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation chief executive officer, said in a statement. He believes distracted driving behaviors contribute to making car crashes the leading cause of death for teenagers.
The biggest distraction for all teens was the use of electronic devices, which was seen in 7 percent of the video clips or roughly half of all triggered events.
But girls were far more likely than boys to take their eyes off the road. Girls used their phones twice as frequently as boys, they were 50 percent more likely to reach for something, and they ate and drank more often while driving.
The good news for parents is that distracted behaviors significantly decreased when mom or dad was in the car. However, when they're absent and the teen has a group of kids in the car , risks soar. But don't blame it on the phone — while kids were twice as likely to drive off the road when there was horseplay, they were actually less likely to use their phones with friends in the car.
The video cameras also measured subtle behaviors, such as kids taking their eyes off the road, which was a far more common occurrence when a phone was in the car. On average, teen drivers looked away from the road a full second longer than drivers without such distractions. "A second may not seem like much," Kissinger said. "But at 65 mph, a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second."