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New Studies Show Dangers of Teens Driving With Passengers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. is motor vehicle accidents. CDC statistics show that teen drivers are four times more likely to be in car accidents than adult drivers.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts and many other states have realized that one of the reasons teens get into accidents is because of distractions from having passengers in the car and put passenger limitations in their graduated driver's licensing laws. Two new studies from State Farm Insurance and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reveal more about how passengers in a vehicle can hinder teenage drivers and which teens are more likely to have passengers.

Personality Types and Driving

The first study focused on the personality types of teen drivers. Researchers interviewed 198 teen drivers and found those who were most likely to drive with multiple passengers described themselves as "thrill-seekers" and often did not have an accurate concept of the dangers of driving. These teens also reported little parental supervision in their driving.

Researchers noted that these teens were in the minority of respondents, however, and that most teens knew the risks associated with driving and followed their parents' rules for driving.

Passengers Causing Distractions

The second study focused on 667 teens who were involved in serious car accidents, comparing risk taking behavior and driver distraction when teens had passengers versus when they were alone. Researchers found that both male and female drivers were more likely to be distracted prior to the vehicle accident when they had passengers in the car. Seventy-one percent of male drivers with passengers reported that the passengers directly caused the distraction leading to the accident, and 47 percent of female drivers reported their passengers were the distraction.

Researchers also discovered that male teen drivers were six times more likely to violate traffic laws and over twice as likely to drive aggressively prior to an accident when they drove with passengers than when they were alone. The study showed that females rarely drove aggressively, whether they had passengers or not.

Experts applaud graduated licensing laws that limit the number of people who can be in the vehicle with new teen drivers. They suggest that parents impose passenger limits for teen drivers to reduce accidents and make the roads safer for everyone.

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