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Passengers increase distraction, crash risk for teenage drivers

It is not really surprising that teenagers are involved in a disproportionate number of car accidents in California and throughout the U.S. But according to two new studies, the driver's inexperience is not solely to blame for the high accident rate. Teenage drivers are most likely to be involved in car crashes when they have other teenage passengers in their vehicles.

In the study, which asked teen drivers to describe their behavior prior to a serious auto accident in which they had been involved, researchers reportedly found that drivers with friends or other teen passengers in the car were more likely to engage in risky behavior than those who were driving alone. Specifically, about 70 percent of teenage boys and 50 percent of girls admitted that the actions of their teenage passengers had distracted them prior to the accident.

The study found a notable difference between the driving behaviors of teenage boys and girls. Males with passengers were about six times more likely to perform an illegal driving maneuver and more than twice more likely to drive aggressively than when they drove alone. In comparison, female teen drivers rarely drove aggressively, regardless of whether they had a passenger or not.

According to a researcher with State Farm Insurance, which performed the study, it is parents' responsibility to ensure that their teens use safe driving behaviors at all times. "It's critical that parents stay involved in their teens' driving beyond the learner permit phase," the researcher said. "This includes continuing to monitor their driving activities and to review ways teens can be safe drivers and passengers."

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Risky business: Teens driving with other teens," Joel Provano, Jan. 24, 2012

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