Study Finds Passengers Put Young Drivers at Risk

Alyssa Campbell, Staff Writter

New research suggests that mixing young drivers with teen passengers may be a recipe for disaster.

Studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found during Teen Driver Safety Week that risky behavior among teen drivers grew for sixteen and seventeen year old drivers as the number of teen passengers increased.

The study was based on an examination of government data on teen crashes from 2007 to 2010.

Among sixteen and seventeen year old drivers involved in fatal crashes, speeding increased from thirty percent with no passengers to forty four percent with two passengers and forty eight percent with three or more passengers.

Conversely, the risk of a teen driver dying in an accident, when a passenger aged thirty five or older is in the vehicle decreased sixty two percent.

Researchers have known for a long time that teen passengers are distracting to teen drivers, but recent studies on the issue don’t reflect new state driving laws that began in the mid-1990s.

Since then, most states have adopted a graduated licensing law that puts some restrictions on teen drivers.

The laws limit teen passengers during the intermediate phase.

Although graduated licensing laws in addition to greater seat belt use, better safety equipment in cars, and anti-drunk-driving campaigns caused the number of sixteen and seventeen year old drivers involved in fatal crashes to be cut it half, after only fifty hours of driving teens can carry a carload of their friends.

Out of all the risk factors including speeding, late night driving, and drinking, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed all the data on fatal crashes that occurred in the United States from 2005 through 2010 and found that 9,578 drivers ages 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes and about forty percent of those had teen passengers in the car at the time.

“Mixing young drivers with teen passengers remains a dominant fatal crash scenario so we urge parents to set and consistently enforce family rules that limit newly licensed teens from driving with young passengers,” said a spokesperson at AAA.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s research clearly shows how young passengers substantially increase a novice driver’s risk of being in a fatal car crash.