Teen driver fatality risk quadruples with multiple young passengers

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety today released a study showing a strong relationship between the number and age of passengers present in a car and the subsequent risk of a teen driver dying in a traffic crash.

The report, "Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers," found that the likelihood of a 16- or 17-year-old driver being killed in a crash, per mile driven, increases with each additional young passenger in the vehicle. Compared to driving with no passengers, a 16- or 17-year-old driver's fatality risk:

  • Increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21 (and no older passengers)
  • Doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)
  • Quadruples when carrying three or more passengers younger than 21 (and no older passengers)

Conversely, carrying at least one passenger aged 35 or older cuts a teen driver's risk of death by 62 percent, and risk of involvement in any police-reported crash by 46 percent.

 "We know that carrying young passengers is a huge risk, but it's also a preventable one," said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "These findings should send a clear message to families that parents can make their teens safer immediately by refusing to allow them to get in the car with other young people, whether they're behind the wheel or in the passenger seat."

Given the significant decrease in risk seen when adults 35 and older were present, parents can also help protect new teen drivers by spending more time in the car with them.

"The connection between carrying young passengers and increased fatal crash risk is clear," said Marilyn Buskohl, spokeswoman for AAA South Dakota. "By limiting the number of passengers that 16- and 17-year-old drivers can have in the car, help ensure that teens stay focused on the road and gain the experience they need to become safe drivers. It's critical, too, that parents restrict passengers and help keep their teens safe."

AAA urges families to consider these steps:

  • Visit www.TeenDriving.AAA.com for resources that can help teens become safer drivers, including a parent-teen driving agreement covering safety risks such as passengers, cell-phone use and night driving.
  • Provide transportation alternatives for teens who need them.
  • Encourage your teens to speak up if they feel the teen driver they're riding with is not driving safely.
  • Talk with other parents so they know the rules for your teen and will help enforce them.
  • Spend time as a passenger when your teen is at the wheel.  Your presence and your guidance help make your teen a safer driver.

AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have long-standing commitments to improving teen driver safety through research and the development of science-based tools and resources.

For a copy of this study, or to learn more about AAA's work in this focus area, visit www.aaafoundation.org.

For additional resources, visit www.TeenDriving.AAA.com.

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