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The role of passengers in fatal teen crashes

The leading cause of death among teens is car crashes. In fact, their chances of being killed in a crash are four times greater than adult drivers. Further, the more passengers a teen driver has, the greater the likelihood of an accident.

That's why many states, including Mississippi, restrict the number of people that teen drivers can have in their vehicles. In our state, drivers under 18 can carry only one passenger under 21 who's not a family member.

Studies have looked at just how teens' ability to drive is impacted by having friends in their car. For some, particularly male teens, it makes them more likely to speed and perform risky and illegal maneuvers.

However, the presence of young passengers can be a distraction, and therefore potentially dangerous, even if the driver isn't deliberately driving recklessly. Again, male drivers seem to be more impacted by passengers than female ones. In one study of teens who had been involved in crashes, 71 percent of boys reported that they'd been distracted by the activity of their passengers. Slightly less than half of the girls said that their passengers had distracted them.

While there's a lot of focus, and rightfully so, on the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently reported that passengers are a bigger source of distraction in teen accidents than cellphones (15 percent compared to 12 percent).

When law enforcement agencies investigate the cause of a crash, they look at whether the driver was using an electronic device or was distracted by any other activity. That's important information to have if you take legal action against the at-fault driver to recover compensation.

Source: TIME Magazine, "Distracted Teen Driving: The Hazards of Having Friends in the Car," Alexandra Sifferlin, accessed June 09, 2016

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