A Texas think-tank claims that the steady increase in nighttime fatalities among teen drivers nationally over the past ten years comes from distracted driving rather than driving while intoxicated.

“Being on a cell phone behind the wheel impairs our driving ability,” said a senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute, the organization that authored the study. “When you add the nighttime danger, you create the perfect storm, and that storm is much more severe for young drivers, largely because of their lack of driving experience.”

The study notes that the ten-year increase in nighttime fatal accidents for teen drivers is greater than motorists in the 20-and-older cohort. But increased alcohol use is apparently not a significant factor among newer drivers,  despite conventional wisdom. The report concludes as follows:

The findings of this analysis suggest that alcohol is contributing to an increase in nighttime fatal crashes involving drivers age 20 and older. However, the same is not true for teenage drivers, suggesting that factors other than alcohol are responsible for the trend of increased nighttime crashes for teens. It is likely that distractions (a common driving risk factor for teenagers) in the form of talking or texting on cell phones is prominent among those factors. Other dominant risk factors for teenage drivers (lack of experience, additional teenage passengers, speeding, not wearing seat belts, and alcohol) have been present and well recognized for many years, long before cellular communication became prevalent. However, it is cell phone use – propelled by rapid technological advancement and increased affordability – that is likely the most notable new driving risk factor for contemporary teens.

The complete study can be accessed here.


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