Study: California teen drivers at risk when teen passengers are present

A recent study found that teen drivers in California who have young passengers in the car are at an increased risk of dying in an accident.

Car accidents are the most common cause of death for teenagers living in California and across the country. In 2013, 2,163 teens died as the result of a motor vehicle accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The teen drivers most at risk include males and the newly licensed. Another at-risk group is the young drivers who have young passengers. A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety illustrates just how dangerous it can be for a teen to transport peers, and the risk rises as the number of passengers does.

The study

To evaluate the risk of teen drivers and passengers, researchers evaluated data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding 16- and 17-year-olds who were killed in a motor vehicle accident. The data reflected numbers from 2007 to 2010 and only involved teens who were operating passenger vehicles. The study's authors also used the NHTSA's information regarding police-reported crashes involving teenage drivers over that timeframe.

Key findings

Overall, the study revealed a strong correlation between teenage driver fatalities and the number of teen passengers in the car. Specifically, researchers compared 16- to 17-year-old drivers with passengers to those without and found the following:

  • A teen driver who has one passenger younger than 21 is 44 percent more likely to be killed in an accident.
  • A teen driver who has two passengers younger than 21 is at twice the risk of getting killed.
  • A teen driver with three or more passengers younger than 21 has almost quadruple the risk of dying in a car accident.

One positive aspect of the study is that if there is a passenger of at least 35 in the car, the teen driver actually has a decreased risk of dying.

California's laws

The study's authors point out that the number of teen driver deaths is decreasing, though the presence of young passengers remains a real threat. As the Governor's Highway Safety Administration points out, California does not allow drivers in the intermediate state of its graduated license program to transport drivers younger than 20 during the first year. This helps to teach young drivers good habits as they learn to navigate the road.

Parents can also do their part to ensure the safety of their children through setting their own rules regarding any kind of distracted driving. Many experts recommend that parents have their teens sign a pledge to avoid dangerous behavior, such as interacting with passengers or using a cellphone while driving.

Anyone who has questions about this topic should consult with a personal injury attorney in California.