In recent years traffic safety officials have figured something out. When young drivers have a car full of other teenagers, the risks of an accident go up.
That's why in some states now a newly licensed driver may not drive with other teens in the vehicle for the first few months. Triple-A recently completed a survey that confirms the logic of these laws.
The new research shows the number of teen passengers in a vehicle resulted in an increase of risky behaviors for 16 and 17-year-old drivers. Among 16 and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes speeding increased when there were other teen passengers in the car.
Late-night driving also increased, as did the use of alcohol.
"Teens driving teens can have deadly consequences," said Jack Peet, AAA Michigan Traffic Safety manager. "AAA urges parents to clearly communicate and limit the frequency that newly licensed teens drive with young passengers."
To reach its findings the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed data on fatal crashes that occurred in the United States from 2005 through 2010. The report shows 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 included at least one teen passenger.
"Teen crashes remain a huge problem nationwide," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "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."
AAA is recommending that all states adopt and enforce a comprehensive three-stage graduated license system that would start with a learner's permit, move to an intermediate/probationary license, and then graduate to a full unrestricted license for novice drivers.
In addition, AAA would like to limit driving at night and with young passengers.
"Statistics show that graduated driver licensing programs are a concrete way of reducing the risk of motor vehicle crashes for novice drivers," said Peet. "Parental involvement is key in the learning to drive process and steps parents can take, such as setting and enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement, improve safety by gradually easing teens into driving."
Lest teens think AAA is picking on them, the auto club says the numbers don't lie.
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.