Behind the wheel: Teen girls distracted by cellphones

John Egan

Teen girls are almost twice as likely as teen boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“The gender differences with regard to distraction observed in this study raise some points that we’ll want to investigate in future projects,” says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Every insight we gain into driver behavior has the potential to lead us to new risk management strategies.”

The study was based on in-car video taken of teen drivers in North Carolina.

Aside from teen girls being nearly twice as likely as teen boys to use electronic devices while driving, the girls were nearly 10 percent more likely to be engaging in other distracting behaviors, such as eating, drinking or reaching for an object. Meanwhile, the teen boys were roughly twice as likely to turn around in their seats while driving and were more likely to talk with people who were outside a car.

On average, teen drivers in the study who were using electronic devices took their eyes off the road for a full second longer than drivers who weren't using such devices.

“A second may not seem like much, but at 65 mph a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second,” Kissinger says. “That extra second can mean the difference between managed risk and tragedy for any driver.”

In the study, potentially distracting activities went down significantly when parents or other adults were in the cars with teen drivers.

Kissinger says the study "provides the best view we’ve had about how and when teens engage in distracted driving behaviors believed to contribute to making car crashes the leading cause of death for teenagers.”

Given the inexperience and immaturity of typical teen drivers, car insurance rates for this group tend to be extremely high.

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