U.S. teenagers are more reckless after their first few years of driving, often becoming overconfident in their abilities and putting themselves at higher risk for accidents, a new study shows.

More than half of high school seniors have car accidents or near misses, compared with 34 percent of sophomores, according to the study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and the group Students Against Destructive Decisions.

More people, including “hyper-connected” teenagers, are distracted by their phones while driving, and insurers are seeking to counter reckless behaviors amid an increase in car accidents in recent years. According to the study, 75 percent of high school seniors “feel confident” in their driving abilities, and 71 percent use a phone behind the wheel. The study said the misplaced confidence could stem from parents who taper off punishment for poor driving after their kids have a year or two of practice under their belts.

“Older teens are still inexperienced drivers — even if they feel otherwise,” Mike Sample, lead driving-safety consultant at Liberty Mutual, said in the report. “Using an app behind the wheel, even glancing away for a second, can impair your driving ability and set off a chain reaction that could lead to a near miss or crash.”

Phones aren’t the only issue. Driving while drowsy, speeding, having multiple passengers and browsing music become more prevalent as new drivers gain confidence.

Read more