The leading cause of death for teens aged 16-19 are car accidents, and it’s long been known that having passengers in the car increases the risk of a car crash, but two new studies explain how they increase crash risk. The pair of studies, from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, and State Farm, were published in tandem in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The studies showed that teens were more likely to be distracted before a crash by another teen passenger. While car insurance rates for teen drivers are already high, one car crash can substantially raise those rates. Of the teens that had a car accident and said they were distracted by something inside the car, 71 percent of boys and 47 percent of girls said they were distracted by a teen passenger.
There were also gender differences in aggressive driving behaviors. Researchers noted that teen boys were more than twice as likely to drive aggressively and nearly six times more likely to perform an illegal driving maneuver than teen boys driving alone. Teen girls rarely drove aggressively before a car accident, regardless of whether they had passengers or were driving alone.
While the studies found that most teens take driving seriously, many do not realize how dangerous having other teen passengers in the car can be. “Teen passengers can intentionally and unintentionally encourage unsafe driving. Because it can be difficult for new drivers to navigate the rules of the road and manage passengers, it’s best to keep the number of passengers to a minimum for the first year,” said Jessica Mirman, one of the study's authors and a behavioral researcher.
The study authors recommended parents set a rule of no teen passengers who are not siblings for the first six months of licensed driving and only one nonsibling teen passenger for the second six months.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.