AAA study: distracted driving to blame for over half of teen accidents; Knoxville driving academy offers advice

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A new study reveals distracted driving is to blame for more accidents involving teenagers.

More than 500 drivers between 15 and 19 years old in Tennessee were seriously hurt in 2010, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.

AAA recently did research, finding things like distractions may be a bigger risk factor than previously thought. Researchers recorded six seconds of video before a crash. The findings show things like friends, music, cell phones and more are distractions and factors that often lead up to a crash.Web Extra:Read the full report [PDF]

AAA reports distractions played a role in 58 percent of the videos compiled, a dramatic spike from the 14 percent estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It’s one of the worst fears I’ve ever known. I’m relieved every time they come through the door and they’re home safe,” said Beth Kayfus, whose daughter, Hannah Nelson, is learning how to drive.

About 1,000 students a year learn the risks and how to overcome them at Drive 4 Life Academy in Knoxville.

“I really have to pay attention because there’s a lot going around,” said Hannah Nelson.

“The parents have to set the example. If the parents are texting on their phone, there’s a really good chance the teens are going to text on their phone. So we talk to our parents and tell them they’ve got to stop talking and texting as well,” said Greg Mangan, owner of Drive 4 Life Academy.

Instructors want lessons to become instinct.

“We don’t like to dwell on the bad things that can happen while driving, but rather, if they do the right thing, then they can enjoy the good things that driving brings to them,” added Mangan.

Nelson says practicing without the distractions before she gets her license is all about saving her life.

“I want her to have that independence and I don’t want to live in fear,” added Kayfus.

“It’s huge. It gives me the opportunity to do so many things I’ve been wanting to do for so long,” said Nelson.

Tennessee already has a law in place where teens are not allowed to use cell phones while driving.

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