Study: Teen passengers increase the risk of car crash in Virginia

A study found that the more teenage passengers there are in a car with a teen driver, the greater the risk that the driver will die in an accident.

Distracted driving is a concern for drivers of all ages in Virginia. However, a recent study has found that teenage motorists may be especially prone to getting into a fatal motor vehicle accident, especially when they have other teenagers in the car. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, which makes the organization's study especially relevant.

Key findings

The overall theme of the study is that having teenage passengers on board increases the chance that the teenage driver will get into an accident. Additionally, the more young passengers there are, the greater the risk of an accident is.

Researchers compared the numbers for 16- and 17-year-old drivers who had teenage passengers in the car and those who had no passengers. They discovered the following to be true for teens who did not have anyone 21 or older in the vehicle:

  • Having one passenger younger than 21 increased the risk of the driver's death by 44 percent.
  • Having two passengers younger than 21 doubled the risk of the driver's death.
  • Having three or more passengers younger than 21 quadrupled the risk of the driver's death.

The foundation noted that having passengers on board also increased the risk of any type of motor vehicle accident.

The silver lining

An interesting aspect of the study is that it evaluated the risk of a fatal car accident based on teenage drivers who had a passenger 35 or older in the vehicle. According to the report, this actually decreased the risk of the driver's death by 62 percent and lowered the risk of any type of police-reported accident by 46 percent.

Virginia's teen driver restrictions

Virginia has laws in place dictating how many passengers a teenage driver may transport. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, motorists younger than 18 may only have one passenger younger than 21. If a driver under 18 has a licensed parent or other licensed adult present in the front seat, there may be up to three younger passengers in the car in certain circumstances, such as driving to or from a school-related event.

Parents should speak to their teenagers about safe driving practices, including limiting the number of young passengers in the vehicle. Leading by example, such as avoiding cellphone use while driving, is a good way to teach responsibility. Letting teens know the facts on risky behavior can also encourage them to focus on the road instead of on others in the car.

Anyone who has questions about this issue should consult with a personal injury attorney.