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Teen passengers distract drivers – and increase the risk of fatality

Recently, attorney Doug Oh-Keith and I have been talking to Oregon high school students about distracted driving as a part of the nationwide project These teens shared personal stories about how they, their friends, and their parents have been distracted behind the wheel.

So I should not have been surprised to read a study that confirms what many have long suspected about teen drivers.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a very strong correlation between the number of young passengers in a vehicle, and the risk of a teen driver being killed in a car crash.

A young driver’s fatality risk quadruples when carrying three passengers younger than 21, compared to driving with no teenage passengers.

As a parent of teenagers, and as a personal injury attorney who has seen far too much senseless tragedy in more than 20 years of practice, the strength of the association between the number of young passengers and the risk of mortality is still pretty shocking.

It gets worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9 out of 10 of us (correctly) consider it very unsafe for a driver to send or read text messages. However, the percentage who said they would express their concern to the texting driver varied drastically by age: the younger the passenger, the less likely to speak up for their own safety.

So not only are teen drivers at a greater risk, teen passengers are too.

What can you do?

  • Educate your kids on being a safe driver, and a safe passenger.
  • Encourage them to speak up for their own safety.
  • If your state does not set limits for teen passengers – in Oregon, a teenager can have up to 3 teen passengers after being licensed for 6 months – set your own limits.

And then set a good example. It’s up to all of us to keep the roads safe.

Contact us to learn more about the End Distracted Driving presentation for students. 

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