Wednesday, March 25, 2015

News You Can't Use: Teen Drivers Distracted Big Time by Cellphones, Talking in Most Crashes

No matter what your personal scapegoat for society's ills is, today's subject should cater to it. We've got young people, technology, phones, distractions and the gun in the garage. If that odious menu doesn't do it, how about throwing in largely useless studies and a headline that contains intentionally misleading information as well as the words "Big Time" to describe how our highways are running bright red with the spilled blood of texting punk kids and their victims. Get ready to be entertained big time as we examine the causes of youth pathology and how it relates to the internal combustion killer.

Whether teen drivers are talking or texting on cellphones or simply chatting with passengers, distractions play a larger role than previously thought in automobile accidents and were responsible for about six of every 10 moderate to severe crashes, according to a study released on Wednesday.

We were planning on simply blaming the accidents on accepted conventional wisdom like "worst generation ever" and "bunch of softies who never fought the Space Invader Arcade War like me" but it turns out the most obvious answer is, incredibly, the correct one.

The study, by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, analyzed about 1,700 videos taken from inside crash vehicles. The videos are used as part of a private program designed to coach drivers to improve performance.

"See how Tommy texter crossed the center line and had a head-on collision? Don't do that." Thank you private program for coaching me into improved performance. Now excuse me while I drink a six pack of the cheap stuff and drive home.

“Access to crash videos has allowed us to better understand the moments leading up to a vehicle impact in a way that was previously impossible,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation, a driving research and education group established in 1947 by AAA, the service organization for motorists.

I'm not really one to talk, but this is run-on sentence hell right here. Nested quotations within nested quotations, it's just too much. Also, watching these videos is totally entertaining once you learn to ignore the human cost, which for us is easy.

“The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized.” 

Finally scientific evidence that the delinquent kid next door is no good.

According to the group’s analysis, all forms of distraction were a factor in 58% of the studied crashes, including in 89% of the crashes where the vehicle left the road and in 76% of the accidents involving rear-end collisions.

Suffice it to say "distraction" is a pretty broad topic and not especially helpful for isolating specific interventions. Can we just start blaming the pocket phone demon like in the headline?

The top distraction, found in about 15% of the crashes, involved the driver interacting with at least one passenger in the vehicle.

Generally when I'm interacting with my passenger that vehicle is parked, if you know what I'm saying.

Also, for the common safety, please pull over before you savagely beat your loved ones.

Next, at 12%, was the driver using a cellphone to talk, text or review the screen for messages and such.

"Right, you know messages and such. That sort of thing. Birds that are angry, dodgy stuff like that."

Other forms of distraction included: the driver looking at something in the vehicle, 10%; looking at something outside the vehicle other than the road, 9%; singing or dancing to music, 8%.

Keep your eyes firmly on the blacktop, it will keep you safe. Also, people are dancing in cars? Man, I'm missing out on so much by showing nominal levels of responsibility.

All forms of grooming such as checking hair accounted for 6% of the crashes, according to the report. That was the same percentage as a driver reaching for an object in the vehicle.

Yup, hair is still there. On the top of my head, right where I left it. Well, mostly.

“It is troubling that passengers and cellphones were the most common forms of distraction given that these factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers,” AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet said in a prepared statement.

"We'd like to see that number go down and the 'reaching for objects' one go up to compensate."

On the bright side I found what I was reaching for.

“The situation is made worse by the fact that young drivers have spent less time behind the wheel and cannot draw upon their previous experience to manage unsafe conditions.”

And no, years of playing Ridge Racer is not a suitable substitute. 

"Making the road a safer place for everyone is our core mission, and Lytx is honored to have played such a key role in research of this magnitude and importance," said Brandon Nixon, chief executive officer of Lytx, a privately-held San Diego-based company.

I wanted to call this project "RoadGate" but was shouted down.

In the videos released by the AAA foundation, one teen is shown trying to negotiate a wet road with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a cellphone to his ear. Another video shows the driver looking at an electronic device, seemingly texting. The driver’s eyes leave the road and the car veers off and appears to be heading toward a mailbox.

Please, stop doing intentionally stupid things.

“AAA recommends that state laws prohibit cell phone use by teen drivers and restrict passengers to one non-family member for the first six months of driving,” the group urged.

We understand that this recommendation is basically worthless and apologize for wasting your time.

Komment Korner  

They play video games and think that's what driving is...

Another problem is that distracted driving is encouraged by cellphone companies and gizmo manufacturers.

What I see almost daily here in Irvine are mostly middle aged women in SUVs holding cell phones in front of them or against their ears.

If they aren't being stimulated every minute of every day by a hand held computer, they think something is wrong.


Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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