March 13, 2023

Are Passengers a Distraction for Teen Drivers?

King of Prussia Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Advocate for Those Injured in Car Accidents.

Teen drivers are especially at risk for a motor vehicle accident because of their lack of experience. In the United States, the leading cause of death for teenagers is motor vehicle crashes. The presence of a teen passenger is a dangerous distraction for teen drivers and doubles the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash. Each additional teen passenger raises the risk of a crash even more. In 2020 around 2,800 American teens ages 13 to 19 died in motor vehicle crashes and another 227,800 were injured. Sadly, teenagers account for 30 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities in the U.S.

The Problem with Passengers

Why are passengers problematic for teen drivers? Studies of teen drivers show that they are more likely to exhibit risky driving behavior when another passenger is present. Speeding, tailgating, weaving through traffic, and failure to yield the right of way are examples of risks teen drivers take more often when they have a passenger. This may be because they feel peer pressure to show off, or because their friend is egging them on. Either way, they leave themselves little room for errors or emergency maneuvers. This combined with a lack of experience behind the wheel is an accident waiting to happen.

The presence of a passenger can also take the teen driver’s attention away from the act of driving. Conversation, especially about something exciting or of particular interest to the driver, can make it harder to concentrate. While chatting the driver may turn their head to the passenger and away from the road ahead. Distracted driving is dangerous for every driver, but especially so for new teen drivers.

Common Causes of Teen Crashes

The teenage brain is not yet fully developed, so teen drivers are prone to making rash decisions and poor judgement calls. This can change as a teen driver gains experience, but until then it can contribute to accidents. Other causes of teen crashes include:

  • Drowsy driving: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that teenagers aged 13 to 18 should sleep between eight and ten hours in a 24-hour period. Most teenagers get nowhere near that amount because teens experience a natural shift in the body’s circadian rhythm or sleep patterns when they hit puberty. Drowsy driving is a serious safety risk that can be comparable to drunk driving.
  • Drunk driving: CDC statistics show that teens are at the highest risk for being killed in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident. Across the country the legal age for drinking is 21, but in 2020, 19 percent of all the 15- to 18-year-old passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
  • Drugged driving: Recreational use of cannabis is now legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia, which makes it easier for teens to access this drug even if they are not old enough to buy it themselves.
  • Night driving: Even though fewer people are out on the roads at night, the rate of fatal accidents at night is higher than during the day. Teens have the most free time on evenings and weekends when it is riskier for them to be on the road.

Preventing Teen Accidents

There are many steps parents and caregivers can take to keep their teen drivers safe. Get involved and stay involved with your teens. Do not assume that learning stops with a driver’s education course. Most states have a graduated license system in place that gives new drivers privileges in stages. Become familiar with these stages and enforce them so that your teen driver does not have a passenger with them until it is allowed by law. Many families set up a contract when their teen begins to drive alone, which clearly outlines the consequences for breaking family rules and expectations for the privilege of using the car.

Modeling good behavior is one of the best things we can do for teen drivers. Set a good example when you are in the driver’s seat. Children learn by observation and that includes teen drivers. Avoid distractions like cell phones, loud music, putting on makeup, and eating and drinking behind the wheel. If you have to use your cell phone, pull over to the side of the road.

Finally, regularly review the rules of the road with your teen driver. Sadly, many of the fatalities in teen accidents are those who simply did not wear a seat belt. Teens are new drivers who can always use a reminder until safety becomes more ingrained in their behavior.

King of Prussia Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Advocate for Those Injured in Car Accidents

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver, we can help. Our experienced King of Prussia car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. we will investigate your accident and fight to hold the responsible party accountable. Call us at 267-861-7100 or inquire online to schedule a free consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania we represent injured accident victims in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Chester County, and Norristown.