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Don’t Let Your Teen Drive Their Friends Around… Passengers Can Be Deadly

A recent study found that risky behaviors among 16 and 17 year old drivers who were involved in fatal crashes increased when there were teen passengers in the car. Currently auto accidents are the number one cause of death for teens and experts are advising that increased parental involvement combined with stronger driver licensing programs is the best way to lower the death toll.

The latest research shows that incidents of risky behavior increased among 16 and 17 year olds as the number of teenage passengers increased. A few facts from the study:

  • In fatal crashes, speeding as a factor increased from 30 to 44 percent when teen passengers went from zero to two and jumped all the way up to 48 percent when three or more teenage passengers were in the car.
  • Teens are more likely to drive late at night (defined as 11:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.) when driving with teen passengers. When two passengers were in the car, late night driving increased from 17 to 22 percent and when three or more passengers were present it jumped to 28 percent.
  • Drinking and driving increased as well. Alcohol use jumped from 13 to 17 percent with two passengers and increased to 18 percent when three or more teens were in the car.

The study analyzed data from fatal crashes occurring between 2005 and 2010 in the United Sates. It also documented the prevalence of passengers aged 13-19 in fatal crashes that involved drivers who were aged between 16 and 17. They examined the characteristics of the crashes and broke them out by the age, sex and number of passengers. The study found that 9,578 drivers who were 16-17 years old were involved in crashes that resulted in a death, of these 3,994 had at least one passenger that was a teen.

The study authors are recommending that every state in the country adopt a three point graduated licensing system that starts with a learners permit, moves to a probationary license before a full unrestricted license is issued. The graduated program should limit driving with passengers as well as driving at night. This allows beginning drivers time to gain the experience and skills necessary to become safe drivers.

Numerous studies have proven graduated licensing programs effective when it comes to reducing crash rates, injuries and deaths among teen drivers. Parent enforcement of the rules is essential to keeping young drivers alive and this can sometimes be a weak link.

This study has highlighted once again how important the implementation and enforcement of graduated licensing programs is to the health of teen drivers. Enforcement of these restrictions can be difficult for police, it is often hard to determine the age of a driver or passengers so parental involvement is key.