By on January 24, 2012

Distracted driving is very much in the news, and so far, cellphones were fingered as the culprits. Now, there is a study that finally identifies the biggest distraction: Passengers. A study by State Farm, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health goes to the bottom of what experts have known for long: Peer passengers increase driver crash risk, especially amongst adolescent drivers. 

The study analyzed a nationally-representative sample of 677 teen drivers involved in serious crashes. Says study author Allison Curry, PhD, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.:

“Both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted just before a crash as compared to teens who crashed while driving alone. Among the teens who said they were distracted by something inside the vehicle before they crashed, 71 percent of males and 47 percent of females said they were distracted directly by the actions of their passengers.”

The researchers found males with passengers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively just before a crash, as compared to males driving alone. Females rarely drove aggressively prior to a crash, regardless of whether they had passengers in the car.

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23 Comments on “Study Detects Dangerous Driving Distraction: Women...”

  • avatar

    Chatty Kathy is going to hate this story. Thanks for bringing it too light though. :)

  • avatar

    Pennsylvania just amended its young driver laws to include the following:

    “You may not carry more than one (1) passenger under the age of 18 who is not an immediate family member unless your parent(s) or guardian(s) is in the vehicle with you. After the first six (6) months of driving on a junior license, the limit is increased to no more than three (3) passengers under the age of 18 who are not immediate family members unless your parent(s) or guardian(s) is in the vehicle with you. The increased limit does not apply to any junior driver who has ever been involved in a crash in which you were partially or fully responsible or who is convicted of any driving violation.”

    As a parent with a 17-year-old son who just got his driver’s license, I think it’s a good provision. I was a Bad Citizen at that age.

    • 0 avatar

      God I was horrid at that age – I’m lucky I didn’t hurt anybody.

      Anybody know how to combat the showoff and crazy behavior? I have boys to worry about soon and I was hoping that letting them get their private pilots license would help mature them.

  • avatar

    Bragging about multitasking has become popular, particularly while driving. Unfortunately it usually means doing multiple things at the same time, and all of them badly. Throw in generic teenage idiocy and it can get awfully dangerous.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      No such thing as multitasking. Brains can handle one task at a time. Period. The people who claim they can multitask are those we read about being pinned under a tractor-trailer or those who try to drive up a bridge support. It can’t be done. It has been proven. So, all you center of the universes out there who claim you can: I will be driving by, paying attention to the road, but just for a split second I will look away (rubberneck) to your flaming accident involving 5 or more cars on Interstate 85 because you thought checking your e-mail or texting little Kayla was more important than watching the Hell where you were going.

      • 0 avatar

        You are perpetuating a meaningless and erroneous legend. Clearly, humans are able to do many things at once. Even driving, which you characterize as “one thing” is a conglomeration of activity of all of our limbs and several senses. None only do these all go on at the same time, but we would not be able to drive safely unless we could perform multiple actions at once.

        And we are only driving in traffic. Imagine what a race car driver is going through while he is driving. That task is many times more difficult than your trip to a soccer game.

        That humans can safely speak to their passenger, a dispatcher, their phone, or back to Rush Limbaugh on the radio is so patently obvious that until a few years ago no one, including scientists, said anything different. And while we ignored this non-problem, driving death rates continuted their downward path.

        I would agree that something that takes your eyes off the road for more than a second or so is really dangerous, so you should not be texting, playing angry birds or downloading ringtones (as someone here in Champaign did just before they killed a bicyclist). That people continue to mix up things that take a little bit of our attention with things that take most of our attention and all our eyesight is a symptom of their motives in this ongoing dispute, and not a reflection of reality.

      • 0 avatar

        YOU are promoting an erroneous and dangerous legend. The research is crystal clear; “multitasking” means doing all of the tasks poorly. Furthermore, overconfident people like you are even worse than other people.

      • 0 avatar

        Driving to soccer practice is infinitely more complicated than grand national racing.

        Only cross-street traffic The King or Andretti had to deal with was in the pits, and they had no kids squabbling in the back seat.

        100% concentration on the task at hand. Most traffic moving in same direction at mostly the same speed, most of the time. Helmets, crash cages, five point harnesses, fuel cells and nomes…

        Of course, with the speeds achieved, like in the military, a deviation from nominal, is amplified, and comes with great consequence.

  • avatar

    This is kind of obvious isn’t it? Was there anyone who didn’t think this was the case? It’s the case with adults too, though they handle it better.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    In my youth, It was my pleasure to have driven in my Mustangs and my Charger in the company of attractive young ladies. Some of these ladies, from time to time, would enthusiasticly participate in mobile activities with me which were very……..distracting, and which would have doubtless caused consternation on the part of their fathers…. I never came close to losing control of the cars during those….moments.

    Thanks for the memories, girls.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Fourtunately my most distracting moments took place in stationary autos.

  • avatar

    “The researchers found males with passengers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively just before a crash, as compared to males driving alone.”

    The issue isn’t distraction as much as it’s peer pressure and machismo. As bad as texting while driving is, it’s minor compared to showing off your Gran Turismo 5 skills to your buds when you have neither practiced in the real world nor finished the development of the judgement region of your pre-frontal cortex.

  • avatar

    Duh. And the color of the sky is blue.

    Who funds this kind of study where the conclusion is quite obvious without any studies at all?

    I mean, if you’re a teenage boy, hormones all raging, and a girl which you consider attractive (hence she’s in your car) in the passenger seats started to pull her short skirts back, obviously you will get distracted! I sense an ulterior motive from the researchers here.

  • avatar

    That’s the oldest looking 5 year old in the car I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar

    Not to pick nits, but the excerpt cited doesn’t say anything in support of the headline. Nowhere does is say women are the distraction, just other passengers.

    I’d say my idiotic activity as a kid was more often with guys on board, as I was at least smart enough to know that most hoonage didn’t really impress the ladies.

    California passed a “no teenage passengers” law for teenagers back in like ’99. Kids hated it, but it’s probably a good idea.

  • avatar

    You’ve got a woman in the car nagging at you. Mom, Girlfriend, Wife, X wife, mistress, etc.

    Can’t tell them to STFU and can’t throw em out. Physical violence is not an option. Didn’t work for Chris Brown – won’t work for you either.

    Just gotta try and ignore them and keep your mind on the road. I’ve literally told women to STOP TALKING TO ME otherwise I’m gonna crash this thing.

  • avatar

    In high school (late 1950’s), I sometimes drove a group of friends to a bowling league. One member of our team was very rowdy in the car on the first trip. I told him to cool it or walk the rest of the way. Somehow, being ejected to the road shoulder a couple miles short of the venue caused a pleasant modification of his behavior, even if he was late for the first few frames. Seat belts? In a 1955 Belvedere wagon? Y’gotta be kidding!

  • avatar

    In Queensland, your first year on the road has you wearing “P” plates and complying with some restrictions including ‘no alcohol’ (zero tolerance) and this one:
    Only one passenger under 21 years of age (excluding immediate family members) may travel with you between 11pm on a day and 5am on the next day. Section 74 of the Transport Operations


  • avatar

    Well of course it’s worse among adolescents. They haven’t yet learned to just look straight ahead and ignore everyone like us grumpy middle aged guys do!

    • 0 avatar

      Well, perhaps us middle aged guys simply didn’t get the appropriate distractions often enough, hence the statistics. Imagine if you have Scarlett Johansson (or whoever you think is really hot) in the passenger seats doing naughty things, then see if you can look straight ahead and ignore her!

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