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Passengers are the biggest cause of teen distracted driving

Recently, we discussed the problem of texting among teen drivers. Indeed, using your phone for any purpose while driving can be dangerous. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Safety, 60 percent of vehicle crashes that involve teens are caused by distracted driving.

The study found, however, that cellphones are not the leading cause of teen distracted driving. It's other passengers. As one AAA spokesperson noted, "What we know about teens is that when they add a passenger, they're more likely to be distracted, they're more likely to engage in risky behavior."

In the study, researchers observed teen drivers via dashboard cameras over a period of eight years. They also documented over 2,000 crashes that were considered moderate to severe. They found that the presence of passengers contributed to 15 percent of the accidents, while 12 percent were caused by talking or texting on a cellphone.

This is a particularly good time for parents to talk with their teen drivers about the dangers of any kind of distraction, whether human or electronic. AAA has dubbed the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day the "100 Deadliest Days." That's because with more teens driving during the summer months, the average number of daily teen crash fatalities is 10. That's an increase of 16 percent compared with other months.

While it's essential for teen drivers to avoid distractions while they're behind the wheel, it's also important to be aware of distracted driving when you're a passenger and avoid riding with those who engage in it. Many teens injured or killed in crashes are passengers in someone else's vehicle. If a loved one is injured or worse in a crash caused by another driver, whether it was the driver of the car he or she was in or another vehicle, it's important to determine what your legal options are for holding that driver responsible.

Source: CBS News, "Top distraction for teen drivers in crashes may surprise you," June 01, 2016

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