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by Tim Beissmann

Teenage girls are twice as likely to use a mobile phone or other electronic devices while driving as teenage boys, according to the results of a new US study.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the use of electronic devices was the number one distraction for newly licenced teenage drivers, ahead of other factors like fiddling with vehicle controls, personal grooming, and eating and drinking.

The study, which used in-car cameras to track teen driving habits, found girls were 10 per cent more likely to engage in distracted behaviours when behind the wheel. They were also 50 per cent more likely to reach for objects than boys, and 25 per cent more likely to eat or drink.

Meanwhile, young men are twice as likely to turn around in their seats while driving and also more likely to communicate with people outside the vehicle.

The majority of distracting behaviours were more prevalent among older teens, suggesting changes in driving habits as young people become more comfortable behind the wheel.

AAA Foundation president Peter Kissinger said teens looking at electronic devices took their eyes off the road for one second longer on average than those who were driving without distraction.

“A second may not seem like much, but at 65mph (105km/h) a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second,” Kissinger said.

“That extra second can mean the difference between managed risk and tragedy for any driver.”

Loud conversation is another threat for young drivers, with the study finding teenagers are six times more likely to be involved in a serious incident when their passengers get rowdy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, teenagers were involved in significantly fewer distracting activities when their parents or other adults were present in the car.

The study was based on more than 7800 videos of novice drivers in North Carolina, capturing six months of motoring from the learner period to the early phase of unsupervised driving.




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