Driving in Cars With Friends – The New Face of Teen Distracted Driving

Recent studies performed by researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm insurance have released results confirming what many of us already suspect, teenagers are not great drivers. In fact, according to findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents and fatal car accidents than their adult counterparts.

Some Teens Pose Greater Risk

In looking at the reasons for teen car accidents, distracted driving was consistently at the top of the list. Distraction can come in many forms, although people are often most familiar with the dangers of talking or texting on cell phones while behind the wheel. Young drivers are not immune to this distraction and cell phone use continues to be a leading cause for teen motor vehicle accidents.

A finding that may be more surprising to some was that passengers in vehicles with teen drivers create a dangerous distraction that can lead to serious motor vehicle crashes; 71 percent of teen male and 47 percent of teen female drivers interviewed admitted to being distracted by their passengers. Males seemed particularly affected by friends in their cars and were six times more likely to drive aggressively, recklessly or commit traffic infractions than solo drivers.

The study also identified certain types of personalities as being more likely to drive with friends in their vehicles, namely teens who seemed unaware of the responsibilities that come with operating a motor vehicle and who have little parental guidance or supervision. Researchers described teens possessing these types of personality similarities as "thrill-seekers." However, researchers also expressed that teens exhibiting risky behaviors comprise the minority of young drivers.

Keeping Teen Drivers Safe

So what can parents do to keep their teens safe while driving? Even the most responsible teens can be unaware of the affect friends can have on them while driving. New drivers do not have enough experience managing operating a vehicle, obeying traffic rules and reacting to weather or emergency conditions to add in a car full of friends. For these reasons, parents need to set specific rules for their teens. This includes limiting the number of peers they can have in their cars. Safety advocates recommend having no passengers for at least the first 6 months for new drivers and then only allowing one passenger for the rest of the year. Parents also need to continue to monitor their teens driving habits and promote safety.

Some other safety tips for parents include:

  • Lead by example and practice safe driving
  • Teach your teen about Nevada's driving laws
  • Talk about dangerous or hazardous driving situations
  • Create a parent/teen driving contract
  • Create a checklist for what steps to take after a car accident

Car accidents are the number one killer of teens in the United States each year. Parents need to understand the risks posed by young drivers and to take steps to help keep their child safe and lessen the chance of being involved in a serious collision.