Teen Drivers are Susceptible to Passenger Distractions While Driving

Friends in the car eating

Thanks to awareness efforts, more stringent laws, and parental involvement, the number of teens killed in traffic accidents has gone down over the past few years. However, car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teen drivers. One of the risk factors often associated with these crashes is passenger distractions while driving.

It may come as a surprise to many, but recent studies found that having young passengers in the car is often as distracting to teen drivers as texting while driving or other serious infractions.

What risks come with peer passengers riding with teen drivers?

A study conducted by the AAA Foundation examined the risk of teen drivers with peer passengers. This study found that the risk of dying in a car crash increased with each additional youth or teen in the vehicle, at least when no adults were present. Findings include (for 16- and 17-year-old drivers):

  • A 44 percent increase in risk with one peer in the vehicle
  • A doubled risk of death in a car accident with two teen passengers
  • A quadrupled risk of a crash-related death with three or more teen passengers
  • An adult passenger age 35 or older reduces the risk of an accident by 46 percent
  • A passenger over 35 years of age reduces the risk of crash-related death by 62 percent

Why are passengers so dangerous with teen drivers?

According to a study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, teen drivers who have same-age passengers are more likely to engage in distracted and risky driving behaviors than those who have only adult passengers or those who are driving alone.

In the study, investigators observed teens who had peer passengers driving faster than other traffic, allowing less space between vehicles, and pulling out into traffic with less headway. This was especially true of teens who had male same-age passengers. Male drivers with female passengers were more likely to drive carefully. This shows the social and peer influence on safe driving practices.

In addition to causing drivers to take more risks, younger passengers are bigger distractions, as they are more likely to talk loudly, move around, touch the driver, change the stereo, or perform other distracting actions.

How does New York law address passengers riding with teen drivers?

New York State’s Graduated License Law limits the number of passengers allowed in the car with junior drivers (drivers under the age of 18 who have a Class DJ or MJ license). Under these laws, junior drivers can only have two passengers under the age of 21 without a parent, guardian, or other qualifying supervising driver in the car. In some cases, exceptions are available for immediate family members. In addition, the supervising driver must ride in the front seat with a teen driver when required.

For more news on teen driving safety, check out our blog and library. If your teen suffers a serious injury in a car accident, contact Goldstein & Bashner at 516-874-0466 for help with an insurance claim for damages.

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