Teenage girls in car with mobile phone

Teen Driver Distraction

Teens readily admit to texting and using cell phones behind the wheel, and many teens have an inflated sense of their ability to drive safely. The combination of distracting wireless devices with relatively inexperienced teen drivers creates a dangerous, and often deadly, recipe.

What Do We Know About Teens and Distraction?

AAA Infographic: Teens and Cell Phone Use

Drivers age 16-19 are avid users of distracting technologies according to the AAA Foundation’s 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally representative poll of drivers age 16 and older.

The AAA Foundation also found that among newly licensed teen drivers, the use of electronic devices was the most common distracting behavior and was more prevalent when a teen was alone in the car.  According to the study, teen drivers were three times as likely to look away from the road when using an electronic device, and looked away for a full second longer, on average, than drivers not using an electronic device.






AAA Infographic: Teens and Cell PhonesA 2011 AAA Foundation project on distracted driving found similar results among drivers ages 17-26.  Nearly every respondent reported doing things that cause distraction while driving, including talking on the phone, reading or sending texts, using apps, checking email, or surfing the web.  When asked to describe incidents they or their friends had experienced that might be considered distracted driving, texting and talking on the phone were most frequently mentioned.








Electronics aren’t the only culprit for teen distraction. For teens who have not yet mastered the complexities of driving, young passengers can be distractions in andof themselves. A teen driver’s risk of crashing increases exponentially with every additional teen passenger, according to a 2012 AAA Foundation study. Adult passengers actually reduce a teen’s crash risk.


Think this is a problem just for teens? Distracted teen drivers put not only themselves, but everyone else on the road at risk.  For every teen driver killed in a crash, almost two other individuals are also killed on average, according to the 2009 update to AAA’s Everyone Is at Risk Report.






What Can Be Done About Teen Driver Distraction?

The best way for teenagers to cultivate the necessary skills and experience to become safe drivers is to limit distractions to ensure they’re focused on driving.

Parents Play a Key Role:

  • Have conversations early and often about the dangers of distractions. Teens tend to listen to parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, and close friends more than strangers, so taking time to have these conversations may be more productive than you think.
  • Set family rules against distracted driving.  Make it a part of a parent-teen driving agreement.
  • Teach by example. By being a role model and minimizing distractions in the vehicle, parents show teens the safe way to drive.


Strong Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) Systems Set the Pace:

  • Parents can deliver safety messages, but GDL and its enforcement sets ground rules for keeping teens safe behind the wheel.
  • AAA urges all states to ban teenagers from using wireless devices while driving, especially in conjunction with a strong GDL system.

For more information and resources on teen driver safety for both parents and teens, visit teendriving.aaa.com.