Teen drivers do better with fewer teen passengers

Recent findings by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety highlight the need for a watchful approach when licensing teenaged drivers. Analyzing fatal crashes in the United States between 2005 and 2010, AAA looked at the effect of having passengers age 13 to 19 with 16- and 17-year-old drivers.

During this five-year period 9,578 drivers in this age group were involved in fatal car accidents. Of these, 3,994 had at least one teenage passenger in the car.

For over a year, Pennsylvania law has restricted the number of passengers a young driver can have in the vehicle. The wisdom of this approach is borne out in the results of the AAA study. Analyzing the data in detail, the study found that as the number of teen passengers grew, so did a teen driver's tendency to drive less safely.

More passengers linked to riskier teen driving

In the fatal accidents involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers, speeding was a factor in 30 percent of the accidents where there were no passengers. Speeding occurred 44 percent of the time in these accidents when there were two teen passengers, and 48 percent of the time with three or more teen passengers.

Passengers also contributed to more accidents at night. Only 17 percent of the teen drivers in the study were on the road between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. with no passengers, but with passengers the percentage went up. With two teen passengers, 22 percent drove late at night and with three or more, 28 percent did.

Alcohol use by the young drivers went up in the presence of passengers, too. Without passengers, it was 13 percent, but increased to 17 percent with two, and 18 percent with three or more, other teens in the car.

Restrictions for teens in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, after six months of driving with a learner's permit, a young driver will be able to receive a junior license, provided other requirements are met. During the six-month learning period, an adult licensed driver must be in the car with the teen.

A junior license allows the teenager to drive without an adult in the car, but still carries important restrictions. When starting to drive on a junior license, the young driver cannot carry more than one passenger under 18 who is not an immediate family member, unless a parent or guardian is in the car.

The restriction is loosened to allow up to three passengers under 18 after six months of safe driving on a junior license. However, teens who have been convicted of a driving violation or who have been at fault in an accident remain restricted to only one young passenger.

Safer roads for all

Pennsylvania's approach appears to be on the right rack for improving teen driving. The roads should be safer for everyone as a result, though accidents continue to happen.

When an accident does occur, anyone who is injured can find help from an experienced personal injury attorney. It is possible to be compensated for medical expenses and other costs arising from injuries.