The teenage road hazard

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Do you need to watch for teen drivers while you're on the road? The Utah Department of Highway Safety says you do.

ABC 4 News investigates why they may be considered a "teenage road hazard."

Teenagers make up less than 10 percent of the driving population, but are responsible for 21 percent of the crashes - and ABC 4 wanted to find out why.

So we took a unsuspecting Utah teen driver and planted some hidden cameras and let her drive.

Her name is Camille Rasmussen, and she’s 17 years old.

“That's crazy, oh no, just kidding,” said Camille as we told her the news of what we did.

In the undercover video, Camille made sure her music was up loud and we couldn’t help but notice Camille was being pretty casual. She was driving with one hand on the wheel.

“Why not 2 hands?” I asked her. “I don't know. Maybe I just get lazy,” replied Camille.

Her mom Mirtha Rasmussen wasn't pleased about the distracted and unfocused driving.

“She should follow every rule because she's building bad habits as well,” said Mirtha.

Those are habits Camille might have learned from the beginning when she was in driving school. They are habits that driving instructors like Chuck Clegg try and break.

For over ten years, he's been a driving instructor and he’s now with A1 Driving School in Salt Lake City.

He's seen a lot of good and bad drivers.

“When we become distracted that's where the problems come,” said Clegg.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Highway Safety, teens are the worst drivers.

“At this time in their lives they don't think anything can hurt them, and it's always going to be the other person who gets involved in an accident,” said Clegg.

Teens have 72.8 crashes per 1,000 drivers on the road. That might not seem like much until you compare it to drivers over 55 years old. They have 19.2 crashes per 1,000 drivers.

“There's no question teenagers have all kinds of things that can be distraction them,” said Clegg.

So, what was the worst distraction seen from Camille Rasmussen? The music? No.

Camille cringes when she sees the video of her grabbing her phone out of her back pocket.

“I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't texting, I wasn't texting,” said Camille.

“Of course it bothers me that she has to reach for something, either the cell phone or anything while she should have all her concentration on the driving,” said Mirtha.

But then we see the video of her taking her hands off the wheel completely to change the radio.

“It’s only like a half of a second just to do that so I don't think that's too unsafe,” said Camille. “Seeing this video now, I think she should be considering following more of the rules in her driving skills,” said Mirtha.

It’s a warning as a parent of a teen and a driver on Utah streets but there is good news: Teen accidents have been decreasing the last ten years.

The Utah Department of Highway Safety says it's because of the graduated drivers license program and the requirements of drivers education for teens.

To find out more tips for parents to teach good driving habits to teens, click here.

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