Are Teen Passengers Increasing the Risk for Fatality Crashes?

Published on July 26, 2019, by Matthew Sharp

Car Accident

Are Teen Passengers Increasing the Risk for Fatality Crashes?

When a teenage driver has only teenage passengers and no adults in the car, the risk for fatality crashes increase by as much as 51 percent.

Teen Drivers and Fatality Risks

In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability for teenagers. Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are nine times more likely to be involved in a car crash than adult drivers, and six times more likely to die in a fatal crash. If a teen driver’s passengers include only other teens and no adults, the crash fatality rate for everyone involved in the crash increases by 51 percent, compared to a 10 percent increase if an adult is present in the car.

Reports from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show that approximately 195,000 teenage drivers were seriously injured in car crashes in 2015, and an estimated 1,886 teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 died from their injuries. In 2016, teen drivers were involved in more than 1 million police-reported vehicle crashes resulting in 3,270 deaths. Of the total fatalities, 37.7% were teen drivers; 29.6% were occupants in other vehicles; 22.6% were passengers in the car with teen drivers, and 11.6% were cyclists and pedestrians. When teen drivers carry teen passengers, fatal crash rates rise by 56% for occupants in other vehicles, 45% for teen drivers, and 17% for cyclists and pedestrians.

The majority of teen driver car crashes (75 percent) are due to critical errors in judgment, lack of driving experience, and driver inattention. The most common factors that contribute to teen car accidents and injuries include:

  • Distractions inside or outside the car
  • Speeding or reckless driving behaviors
  • Alcohol and/or drugs
  • Ignoring bad road and/or weather conditions
  • Playing around in the car
  • Taking hands off the wheel and eyes off the road

Teen drivers take a lot of risks on the road because they underestimate or don’t recognize hazardous driving conditions like most adults. When teen passengers are also in the car, teen drivers take more risks. Teen drivers must learn that distractions like changing radio stations, talking or texting on cell phones, snapping selfies, loud conversations, eating and drinking, and reading navigational maps can cause a deadly car crash in less than two minutes.