Teen Driver Safety Week is October 14-20.
Risky behaviors among 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes increased when teen passengers were present, according to a study presented today by AAA and conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. With motor vehicle crashes ranking as the leading cause of death for teens, AAA is calling for greater parental involvement and stronger graduated driver’s licensing programs to promote road safety.
The new research, released as part of Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 14-20), shows that the prevalence of risky behaviors generally grew for 16- and 17-year-old drivers as the number of teen passengers increased.
"This new research reconfirms that teens driving with teens can be a deadly mix, and demonstrates that teen crashes remain an immense problem nationwide," said Ragina C. Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Our past research clearly shows how young passengers substantially increase a novice driver’s risk of being in a fatal crash, and these new findings underscore the need to refocus our efforts to address the problem, from state legislatures to parents."
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed data on fatal crashes that occurred in the United States from 2005 through 2010. The report documents the prevalence of passengers ages 13-19 in fatal crashes involving drivers age 16 and 17, and examines the characteristics of those crashes according to age, sex and number of teen passengers present. Researchers found that 9,578 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes, and that 3,994 of these crashes (42 percent) included at least one teen passenger.
Reviewing Maryland crash data from 2005 through 2010, researchers found that 161 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes, and that 57 of these crashes (35 percent) included at least one teen passenger.
"Parents can help reduce teen crash fatalities by establishing and consistently enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement that limits newly licensed teens from driving with young passengers," added Averella.
This study builds on a AAA Foundation report released in May that shows how risk of death in a traffic crash for 16- and 17-year-old drivers increases by 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21, doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more younger passengers, compared with driving alone.
A previous study by the AAA Foundation found that potentially distracting loud conversation and horseplay were substantially more common with multiple teenage passengers in the vehicle than with siblings or adult passengers.
Teen drivers face a number of safety challenges, including:
· Teenage drivers are involved in more crashes per mile than drivers of any other age group.
· Drivers aged 16 to 17 are involved in about seven times as many crashes per mile driven compared to drivers in their forties, fifties or sixties.
· Teenage drivers are overrepresented in crashes that result in the death of other people, such as their passengers, pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles.
The auto club recommends that all states adopt and enforce a comprehensive three-stage (learner’s permit, intermediate/probationary license, full/unrestricted license) graduated license system for novice drivers. These programs should limit driving at night and driving with young passengers, among other provisions designed to help novice drivers gain the skills and experience associated with responsible driving behavior.
While Maryland has a strong graduated license (GDL) system, AAA Mid-Atlantic believes there is still room for improvement. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), reducing nighttime driving from the current midnight curfew to 8:00 p.m. could reduce fatal crashes in Maryland by nine percent.
In terms of teen passenger limits, Maryland prohibits provisional drivers from carrying passengers under the age of 18 (except for family members) for the first five months of licensure. The IIHS and HLDI state current best GDL practices limit all teen passengers during the provisional license period.
AAA has a wide range of tools available at AAA.com/TeenDriving to help parents simplify the learning-to-drive process including parent-teen driving agreements, online webinars, licensing information and free online information developed from a National Institutes of Health program.