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Speeding, hard braking, cellphones: Researchers look at teens’ unsafe driving behaviors


Photo: Antonio_Diaz/iStockphoto

A recent study of teen drivers shows risky behaviors behind the wheel are fairly common, particularly handheld cellphone use and speeding.

To better understand why motor vehicle-related crashes are one of the leading causes of death among teens, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania asked 165 teens to use a smartphone app that tracked their driving time and distance traveled, as well as hard braking, speeding and phone use while behind the wheel.

Speeding was detected during 41.5% of the nearly 1,400 unique car trips recorded, and hard braking occurred 35.7% of the time. Phones were used during nearly a quarter of the trips, including 19% of the time the teens were driving faster than 25 mph.


“Our data gives us another insight into teen driving behaviors,” said lead study author Catherine McDonald, an associate professor in the Penn School of Nursing and co-director of the Penn Injury Science Center. “Given the rapidly changing technology in the daily life of adolescents, this study also builds on previous research and helps to identify patterns related to cellphone use while driving among adolescents. Behavioral variations in this sample highlight opportunities for targeted interventions on risky driving.”

The study was published online in the journal Injury Prevention.

The National Safety Council, in partnership with Honda, will present a series of free virtual “parent nights” about the issues and risk factors teen drivers face. The events will run from Jan. 23 through Feb. 23. For more information and to register, visit DriveitHOME.org/ParentNight.

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