The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety just released a study that shows a strong association between the number and age of passengers present in a vehicle and the increased risk of a teen driver dying in a traffic crash. The report, Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers, found 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, highlighting the protective influence that parents and other adults have in a vehicle.
The study analyzed data on crashes and the number of miles driven by 16- and 17-year-olds to assess the effect on a teen driver’s safety with passengers in the vehicle. Despite recent progress, the new report confirms that carrying young passengers (under 21) is still a major risk factor for 16- and 17-year-old drivers.
“We know carrying young passengers plays a large role with teen drivers. Not only does it represent the freedom to be with friends, but it’s sometimes the lending hand that parents rely on for picking up younger siblings from school,” said Michele Harris, AAA director, Traffic Safety Culture, The Auto Club Group. “These findings should send a clear message to families that parents can make their teens safer 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."