Distraction and Teen Crashes


Distracted driving amongst teens is a much greater problem than previously thought. Research using teen crash videos has found that distraction was a factor in early 60% of teen crashes, including 89% of road-departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes.

The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver are interacting with passengers (15%) and using cell phones (12%). Previous research indicates that teen passengers and cell phones can increase the crash risk for teen drivers. On average, teen drivers using a cell phone took their eyes off of the road in the moments leading up to a crash.  They also failed to react more than half of the time before a rear-end collision.

A follow-up report in 2016 found that while the top distractions were unchanged from 2007 to 2015, a disturbing trend emerged in how teens are using their phone behind the wheel. Teens were more likely to be looking down or operating their phone rather than talking or listening in the critical seconds leading up to a crash. The study also found an increase in rear-end crashes and the average time drivers’ eyes were off the road.

AAA recommendations:

  • States should review and potentially strengthen their graduated driver licensing (GDL) and distracted driving laws to provide as much protection as possible for teens.
  • Parents should educate their teen about the dangers of cell phone use while driving and restrict passengers during the learning-to-drive process.

View the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Fact Sheet.