THE DANGER THAT PASSENGERS POSE FOR TEEN DRIVERS

In 2001, Tennessee launched the Graduated Driver’s License Program, which places restrictions on motorists who are younger than 18. According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the goal of the program is to help young drivers learn the rules of the road and hopefully reduce car accidents.

The state also has laws targeting distracted driving among teenagers. No novice driver – a driver who has either an intermediate license or a learner’s permit – can use any handheld or hands-free device while driving.

However, little has been done to address one of teenage drivers’ biggest threats: passengers. The AAA Foundation conducted a study to determine how other people in the vehicle affect these young drivers, who have the highest rate of crashes of in the country. Overall, simply having a passenger in the car was found to increase the risk of an accident. Other key findings include the following:

  • If one passenger younger than 21 is in the car, the risk of a crash increases by 44 percent.
  • If two people younger than 21 are in the car with the teen driver, the risk doubles.
  • If three passengers younger than 21 are present, the risk of an accident quadruples.

Interestingly enough, the AAA Foundation study concluded that the risk of an accident actually decreases by 62 percent if there is an adult 35 years or older in the car. Researchers suggested that parents should be present in the vehicle with a teenage driver, even after he or she obtains a full driver’s license. This will help the teen learn good driving habits that will hopefully carry into adulthood.

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