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Teen Passengers Increasing Car Accident Risk for Teen Drivers?

Getting a driver's license is an exciting time for many teens. No longer do they have to rely on parents to drive them from place to place. They can go where they want when they want. However, just because a teen passes a driver's test does not mean that he or she is ready to be behind the wheel.

Teen drivers are particularly vulnerable to distractions, and these distractions could lead to potentially serious car accidents. Whether it is a cellphone, MP3 player or other passenger in the vehicle, teens have many opportunities to take their eyes off of the road.

A recent study by the Automobile Association of America's Foundation for Traffic Safety examined the effect of other passengers in a teen driver's vehicle. The study found that the risk of death in a car accident increases 44 percent even when only one passenger under age 21 is present. If there are more people under the age of 21 in the car, the risk of death increases substantially.

Many states have graduated driver's license laws. These laws restrict who may be a teen driver's passengers. Texas restricts license holders 17 and under in the first 12 months of being licensed. These drivers cannot have more than one passenger under age 21 (exceptions are made for family members.) Teen drivers also are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5 A.M., unless it is for employment, school or emergency reasons.

These laws have helped to reduce the number of teens dying in car accidents, but, they are difficult to enforce. Police may not be able to spot drivers that are breaking the graduated license laws, so it is up to parents to make sure that teens understand the restrictions in place.

Source: NPR.org "Teen passengers spell danger for novice drivers" May 8, 2012.

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