Loud talking may be more dangerous to teen drivers than texting
Some states enforce laws that prohibit teen drivers from having a certain number of passengers. Now the reasoning behind these laws has been reinforced by new research from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. Loud conversations increased the risk of car accidents and crashes of teen drivers by six times. Distracting passengers led to teen drivers having to suddenly brake or slow down twice as often, compared to drivers with no rowdy passengers.
Fifty-two North Carolina high-school aged drivers participated in the study. Small cameras mounted on their cars recorded their driving behavior and the car's movements. When those movements reached a certain threshold, a 20-second clip of footage was automatically saved.
The camera recorded more than 24,000 video clips for six months. About one-third of the clips showed a driver alongside passengers, with 12.6 percent of the clips having loud conversations and 6.3 percent showing rowdy passengers. Cell phones were another distraction. While teens who used cell phones while driving did not have serious accidents, they were three times more likely to divert their eyes from the road compared to drivers who didn’t use phones. The top three behaviors involving taking their eyes off the road were cell phones, adjusting car controls, and grooming.
The researchers said that forces a driver can’t control, such as rowdy passengers, create more dangerous incidents compared to factors a driver can control, such as taking their eyes off the road. Researchers also noted that the cameras may have influenced the participants’ behaviors.