MONDAY, March 26, 2012 (HealthDay News) --Teen girls are twice as likely as boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving, according to researchers who analyzed in-car video clips of American teen drivers' behavior.
Electronic devices were the most common type of distracted driving behavior for both genders, but there were a number of other types of distractions, found the study released Monday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The video clips were from unsupervised teen drivers in 50 North Carolina families.
"Cellphones, texting, personal grooming, and reaching for things in the car were among the most common distracting activities found when cameras were put in new teen drivers' cars," President and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a foundation news release.
"This new study provides the best view we've had about how and when teens engage in distracted driving behaviors believed to contribute to making car crashes the leading cause of death for teenagers," he added.
The use of electronic devices was the leading cause of distracted driving behaviors in 7 percent of all the video clips analyzed by the researchers. Other types of distractions were noted in 15 percent of the video clips. The most common were adjusting controls, personal grooming and eating or drinking.
Older teens were more likely to engage in distracting behaviors while driving, which suggests that these behaviors increase as teens get more comfortable behind the wheel, the researchers said.
Along with being twice as likely as male teens to use an electronic device while driving, teen girls were nearly 10 percent more likely to engage in other distracted behaviors. Girls were nearly 50 percent more likely than boys to be reaching for an object and nearly 25 percent more likely to be eating and drinking.
Male teens were about twice as likely as female teens to turn around in their seats while driving and were also more likely to communicate with people outside of the car.
The study also found that loud conversation and horseplay were far more common when teen drivers had a group of friends in the car rather than just one friend.
The risk of teen drivers taking their eyes off the road was three times higher when they used electronic devices and 2.5 times higher when they engaged in other distracting behaviors.
Teen drivers using electronic devices took their eyes off the road for an average of one second longer than those who didn't use the devices.
"A second may not seem like much, but at 65 mph 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."
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about distracted driving.