Driver Knowledge Tests

Leading causes of distraction-based crashes

6 out of 10 teen crashes involve driver distraction

6 out of 10 teen crashes involve driver distraction

Teens don’t have much experience driving, and they are at risk of crashing due to distractions inside and outside the car. The diagram above shows the main causes as stated by the AAA (American Automobile Association).

Interacting with passengers – 15%

This is a situation where teamwork fails. Teen drivers often drive with mates – road trips and missions are essential to do as a teen, and you’ll leave in good spirits. The problem is that teens often haven’t had enough experience to know when something is dangerously distracting inside the car. Banter with mates, and good-natured fun can lead to a split second of inattention. The solution is to remind your mates that they should be helping you drive. This doesn’t mean they should shut up; it means that they are free to help warn you of dangers ahead and keep an eye on other motorists – it’s just basic teamwork.

Using a cellphone – 12%

Depending on which study you read, you are anywhere up to seven times more likely to have a fatal car accident if you are using a cellphone. This, unfortunately, also includes hands-free phones which don’t reduce the risk that much more than using a hand-held phone. The general consensus is that you’re probably at least 2-3 times more likely to have an accident and die if you’re using a phone. The solution is to not use your phone.

Looking at something inside the vehicle – 10%

Lighting a cigarette, adjusting the air conditioning, eating a pie, swatting a wasp – all things that momentarily take your attention away from the road. The solution is to pull over if you need to eat, have a smoke or get a wasp out of the car. Adjusting the air conditioning can be done safely on the road, but only if you practice doing it when you are stationary so that you know how to adjust the settings without looking at them.

Looking at something outside the vehicle – 9%

Pretty girls, hot guys, awesome cars, spectacular scenery, ads, signage and more – loads of things outside the car vie for your attention. It’s a question of your willpower, and learning to scan properly. If you scan and see something you like the look of, don’t fixate on it. You saw it because you were scanning, and your eyes will return to it if you continue scanning up ahead. So, the solution is to carry on scanning.

Singing/dancing to music – 8%

We were surprised at ‘dancing’, but perhaps it covers all kinds of grooving to music while in your seat. Remember: just because Jay-Z might close his eyes when he’s busting out rhymes doesn’t mean you should while you are driving.

Grooming – 6%

Shaving or putting on makeup should be done either before or after you drive, and never while driving (not even at the lights because your attention isn’t on the lights, and then you hold people up).

Reaching for an object – 6%

Trying to reach for that object that fell into the footwell or is in the glove box while you try to keep your eyes on the road is difficult. As you lean over, you will tend to steer in that direction, too (i.e. to the left), and that’s when you can get dangerously close to cyclists, parked cars and soft verges. The solution is to pull over and get what you need.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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