A teenager's crash risk increases when friends are in the car. Now, thanks to separate studies at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance, that assumption has been proven, according to a story in Healthland.time.com.
Statistics document that U.S. teens are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident ─ making car accidents the leading cause of death. The two new studies ─ both published in the Journal of Adolescent Health ─ explain how passengers affect a driver's performance before a crash.
A study of 198 teen drivers by behavioral researcher Jessica Mirman at Philadelphia's Children's Hospital found that most teens understand the risks of driving and follow the rules set by their parents. Yet the small percentage of teens identifying themselves as "thrill seekers" did not accurately perceive their driving risks and reported that their parents did not closely monitor their time behind the wheel. This group was most likely to drive with several passengers in the car.
Researchers in another study analyzed 677 teen drivers involved in serious collisions nationwide, comparing likely driver distractions and risk-taking just before the accident. Some teens had passengers and some were alone. It found that distraction by passengers contributed to crashes in both male and female teen drivers. Among those who reported being distracted by passengers before the crash, 71 percent were boys and 47 percent were girls.
The study also indicated that teen males driving with passengers were almost six times more likely than males driving alone to perform illegal maneuvers and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively before a crash. Aggressive driving was not a factor for female drivers.
"It's critical that parents stay involved in their teens' driving beyond the learner permit phase," said State Farm research director Chris Mullen, in a story in AJC.com. "This includes continuing to monitor their driving activities and to review ways teens can be safe drivers and passengers."
Source: "Distracted Teen Driving: The Hazards of Having Friends in the Car," Time, 1/25/12