Passenger effects on teenage driving and opportunities for reducing the risks of such travel

Williams, Allan F. / Ferguson, Susan A. / McCartt, Anne T.
Journal of Safety Research

Objectives: To review the research evidence concerning the effects of passengers on teenage driving and crash involvement, and to explore ways to reduce negative effects.
Methods: Review of the international literature on these topics.
Results: Passenger presence increases crash risk for teenage drivers, especially when the passengers are other teenagers and especially when they are male. Female passengers do not have the same effects. Teenagers are more susceptible to peer influences than adults. The combination of passenger-induced distraction and driving inexperience can disrupt driving behavior, and there is evidence that teenage driver risk taking increases in vehicles with multiple teenagers. Possible ways to reduce the resulting crash problem include altering the in-vehicle behavior of teenagers or influencing their selection of travel partners. Legal restrictions on passengers with teenage drivers have been found effective in reducing the crash problem. Parental monitoring of teenage driving behavior, and programs aimed at teenagers themselves, could be other options but their efficacy is unproven. It currently is unknown why female passengers have a different effect than males or if that might offer clues about future interventions.
Conclusions: Despite passenger restrictions in the majority of states, 42% of 16- and 17-year-old drivers in fatal crashes in 2005 were transporting teenagers with no adults in the vehicle; 61% of teenage passenger deaths (1,222 in 2005) occurred in vehicles driven by other teenagers. Wider application of passenger restrictions is indicated.
Impact on industry: Ways to make passenger restrictions more effective are needed, and other techniques for reducing this major problem need development and testing.
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