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Young passengers increase teen crash fatality risk, study says

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of teenagers killed in car accidents in which they or another teen were behind the wheel decreased significantly. Government officials believe that the drop in fatal accidents involving teen drivers was largely the result of graduated driver's licensing laws, which were passed or strengthened by many states during that decade.

But it seems that teen crash deaths increased during the first half of 2011 according to preliminary data from that period. Now, officials are wondering whether the effectiveness of graduated licensing has run its course, and how to continue to increase safe driving behaviors among teenage drivers.

With the release of a new study, it is likely that officials will focus on the number of other teens in a vehicle when a teenage driver is behind the wheel. In the study, which was completed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers found that teens have a significantly heightened risk of dying in a car accident when multiple peers are in the car.

Specifically, researchers found that the risk of death to a 16- or 17-year-old driver increases by about 44 percent when that driver is transporting one passenger under the age of 21. The risk doubles when the driver is carrying two passengers under 21, and quadruples when three passengers under 21 are in the vehicle.

To contrast, a teen driver who has a passenger over the age of 35 in the car has a 62 percent lower risk of being killed in an accident.

Source: Washington Post, "Study: A teenage driver's risk of dying in a crash goes up sharply with other teens in the car," May 7, 2012

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