Teens driving teens can be a deadly mix, AAA warns

AAA OKLAHOMA Modified: October 17, 2012 at 9:26 am •  Published: October 17, 2012
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A new AAA study underscores the danger of a car full of teens. In light of new information and in recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week all this week, AAA is urging parents to get involved in their teen’s driving and stay involved even after they have their license.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, risky driving behavior among 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes increased when other teens were in the car. Nationally, 9,578 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes from 2005 to 2010, and 3,994 (42 percent) of these included at least one teen passenger.

“Inexperience paired with risk-taking behind the wheel is the main cause of teen crashes,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Previous AAA research has shown that factors such as nighttime driving and additional teen passengers multiply the crash risk, but this new information opens our eyes to just how much that risk is magnified with teen passengers.”

According to the study, the prevalence of risky behaviors generally grew for teen drivers as the number of teen passengers increased. For example, the table below shows the likelihood of teens to speed increases from 30 percent to 44 percent with two teen passengers in the vehicle as opposed to driving solo.

Prevalence of risky behavior -- With no teen passengers; With 2 teen passengers; With 3+ teen passengers

Speeding -- 30 percent; 44 percent; 48 percent

Late-night driving -- 17 percent; 22 percent; 28 percent

Alcohol use -- 13 percent; 17 percent; 18 percent

“Oklahoma’s Graduated Driver’s License Law limits teen passengers for teens during the intermediate phase,” Mai said. “However, once teens have their full license, it’s up to parents to take steps, such as enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement, to help keep new teen drivers safe while they gradually gain experience behind the wheel.”

Families can do a lot to improve their teens’ level of safety as they begin driving:

Practice makes perfect. Oklahoma requires teens to drive only 50 supervised hours before earning their full license. However, AAA encourages parents to double those hours and continue practicing together even after the teen is licensed to ensure that basic skills are mastered and to introduce progressively challenging conditions like driving in rain, heavy traffic and on rural roads.

Limit teen passengers. In Oklahoma, teens with learner permits may only drive when accompanied by a licensed driver of at least 21 years of age. Intermediate license holders may not drive with more than one non-family passenger younger than 18. Parents are urged to extend this restriction until they are fully confident in their teen’s driving ability, or to further limit teen passengers.