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5 Rules for teen drivers to keep them focused and save lives

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Distracted teen drivers are way more dangerous than we thought

Distracted teens are causing way more car accidents than anyone previously thought.

In fact, according to new research from AAA, distracted driving is to blame for six out of every 10 teen driving accidents — four times the number of accidents officials previously believed were caused by distraction. Teens have by far the most crashes of any other group.

Thanks to in-vehicle video recorders, researchers were able to analyze the last few seconds before a teenaged driver crashed to see how many were caused by being distracted from the road. Out of the 1,700 videos analyzed, 58 percent of those crashed were caused by a distracted driver. Previous official estimates only attributed 14 percent of teen car crashes to distracted driving.

Here's an infographic that breaks down the study's findings.

Distracted teen drivers are way more dangerous than we thought

Image: AAA

Want to keep your teenager safe behind the wheel? Insist they follow these five non-negotiable rules to keep their distraction to a minimum. It will not only save their lives, but the lives of everyone on the road.

1. No more than one friend in the car at a time

AAA found that 15 percent of teen crashes were caused by a driver who was distracted while interacting with one or more passengers. A car full of kids, as any mom knows, is distracting, so limit your teen driver to a maximum of one passenger who isn't an adult.

2. Absolutely, positively no cell phone or other device while the car is moving

How many people tried to kill you on the road today while they were texting and driving? This is a no-brainer. Not hands-free, not speaker phone — there is no reason to handle your phone, tablet, music player or any other device while you're driving. Ever.

3. Mess with dials before you drive

AAA found that looking at something in the vehicle was the cause of 10 percent of teen crashes. Messing with the car's features, dials and controls or getting directions should never be done while the car is moving. Make sure you insist your teen drivers have everything set — from the temperature to the GPS — before hitting the road.

4. No grooming

Putting on makeup or fixing your hair is a bad idea behind the wheel for any driver, but a super big no-no for an inexperienced teenager. In the AAA study, grooming was the cause of six percent of teen crashes.

5. No music

It's important to teach your teen that driving is serious business that can have fatal consequences in an instant. Singing and moving to music in the car — which is something every single driver has done — was the cause of eight percent of crashes. And looking at something outside the vehicle caused nine percent of crashes. While no music while driving might seem like a strict rule, a general lesson about the importance of taking the responsibility of driving and the serious consequences of just a moment of distraction is probably a good idea.

Here's a video from AAA showing the seconds before a crash. But be warned, you might not ever want to hit the road again for fear of getting plowed into by a distracted teen. They're really terrible drivers.

More on teen drivers

Teaching teens to be safe drivers
5 Ways to road proof your teen driver
How to track your kids' whereabouts

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