Alabama Public Radio recently reported on some disturbing findings in a well-publicized New England Journal of Medicine study about teen driving habits. While the findings might not surprise you, they should definitely give you pause about sharing the road with hormonal, inexperienced drivers. A Short But Blessed Grace Period First, here’s the good news: Teen drivers are model road citizens for the first several months of their driving careers. Before they develop an innate familiarity with the rules of the road, they’re extra-careful about signaling early, looking both ways, respecting speed limits and avoiding dangerous passing maneuvers. Over time, however, these good habits start to fall by the wayside. Within six months, teens are just as reckless as their adult counterparts. It’s possible that teens don’t fully absorb the good habits that their teachers impart. Alternatively, they may acquire dangerous behaviors by mimicking role models like older siblings and college students. Eating and Driving: Better for Adults? Eating and driving is a classic example of such a dangerous behavior. Surprisingly, this act poses relatively little risk for adult drivers who can successfully keep their eyes from wandering during the maneuver. By contrast, teens who eat while behind the wheel are involved in accidents at far higher rates than teens who refrain from the practice. Practice Makes Perfect Although the study’s conclusions weren’t crystal clear on this point, it seems likely that teen drivers engaged in risky maneuvers as a result of general overconfidence in their driving abilities. After six months of driving, the study found that teens drove distractedly at the same rate as adults in their 20s and 30s. While these drivers were no longer novices, they still hadn’t gained enough experience to react to external hazards while distracted. “It takes thousands of hours of practice to get good at driving,” notes the study’s co-author. Cell Phones: The Great Equalizer Teens aren’t solely responsible for distracted driving accidents. According to the study, adults and teens alike struggle to maintain focus while operating a mobile phone’s keypad. Although accidents in which texting is a factor occur at dismally high rates, even dialing a 10-digit phone number before completing a call can be hazardous. These findings reinforce the need to educate drivers about the dangers of using hand-held phones on the road. This requires a collective effort. While you can personally avoid texting, eating, applying makeup or performing other dangerous tasks during your commute, you can’t control what nearby drivers are doing. Fortunately, you’re not alone out there. If you’ve suffered injury or property damage in an accident that may have been caused by distracted driving, you could be entitled to compensation. To learn more about your options, contact our Mobile, AL attorney’s office at 866-975-7766 or visit our auto accident resources page.