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Friends Can Be One of the Biggest Distractions to Teen Drivers

We've talked here about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly among teens. Texting, talking on the phone and emailing while driving can be dangerous and even deadly for any driver, but even more so for those with little experience behind the wheel.

However, one of the biggest distractions for teen drivers is their passengers, especially when there are several other teens in the car. In 2011, 933 teens died while riding in a vehicle with a teen driver.

In a study in the "Journal of Adolescent Health" on car crashes involving teens, both female and male drivers admitted to being more distracted while carrying peer passengers than while driving alone. However, 71 percent of males said they were distracted by their passengers' actions or movements, while only 47 percent of females did. Male teens involved in crashes were more likely to have been driving aggressively than their female counterparts.

Just how do passengers affect teen drivers? Obviously, their movements, actions, talking and singing can be distracting. However, one study found that teen drivers were more likely to exhibit risky behavior behind the wheel just because they knew that their peers were watching them.

The number of young passengers also impacts the chances of a tragic car accident. One study that looked at the deaths of teens and older children in car accidents found that if at least two peer passengers were in the car with a teen driver, the risk of a fatal accident more than tripled.

It's certainly common for multiple kids to be in a car. They ride to and from school, go to the beach and generally hang out together. Parents are often happy when their eldest gets his or her driver's license because it means an additional chauffeur for the younger kids in the family. However, it's essential to caution teens that when they're behind the wheel, they need to focus on their driving and not their friends or siblings in the car. Further, as passengers, teens also should be wary of dangerous behavior by the driver or other passengers.

If you're on the road and spot a car filled with teens, it's probably wise to keep a safe distance. If you are involved in an accident with a teen driver, there can be some challenges and issues to recovering compensation. It's best to seek legal guidance to determine how to proceed.

Source: teendriversource.org, "Passengers as Deadly Distractions -- Peers and Older Teen Passengers," accessed June 24, 2015

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