As Joplin personal injury lawyers, we know that teens are have higher accident risks than any other age group. This week, we were alarmed to read a recent study released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), which indicates that teen drivers are nearly eight times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident when they are driving with two or more teen passengers on board.
"Novice drivers (15 to 17 years old) are at a distinct disadvantage, not only because of their limited driving experience, but also because of their incomplete brain development," writes Russell Henk, researcher and author of the TTI study. "Research has found that the prefrontal cortex of the brain -- the region responsible for weighing the consequences of risky behavior -- is the last part of the brain to develop." Furthermore, the study maintains that the presence of peer passengers increases accident risks within an already high-risk age group. "Challenges faced by teenage drivers are more pronounced when teenage passengers are in the vehicle due to the increased distraction created by those passengers, and the increased tendency for the drivers to exhibit risky behaviors in the presence of those passengers," Henk concludes.
Teen drivers and peer passengers: Alarming facts and statistics
• A teen driver's chances of being involved in a fatal crash are more than tripled when there are two or more peer passengers in the vehicle.
• When teen drivers transport peer passengers, they are more vulnerable to passenger-related distractions. Of teen drivers who reported being distracted in the moments leading up to a crash, 71% of females and 47% of males said they were "directly distracted by their passengers' movements or actions."
• Male teens are especially prone to aggressive driving behaviors when peer passengers are in the vehicle. Young men are more than six times more likely to perform illegal maneuvers and two times more likely to act aggressively when in the presence of peer passengers, compared to when they are driving alone.
• Teen drivers aren't necessarily conscious of the way passengers affect their concentration and driving performance. A study conducted by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that "only 10% of teens correctly view passengers as 'potentially hazardous.'"
Under Missouri's Graduated Driver License Law, teen drivers are subject to restrictions when it comes to driving with peer passengers. To learn more about the GDL law in our state, please click here.