Unruly Passangers Create Distraction for Young Drivers

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Results from a new study indicates that teenaged drivers who are distracted by their passengers’ loud talking and unruly conduct have a much greater chance of being involved accidents than teens distracted by cell phones or other electronic devices.

“Forty-three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle,” said Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center and director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers.

Foss and a colleague placed cameras in the vehicles of 52 teenagers for six months, recording their driving habits and behavior. The teen drivers were observed while they drove alone and when they drove with parents and young passengers. Foss’ study found that the teen drivers were less likely to use cell phones and other electronic devices when they had passengers in the vehicle. The study also found that young drivers risked a “serious incident” – such as needing to take evasive action to avoid an accident – was six times greater when the teen driver had passengers who were talking loudly and three times greater when the passengers were “horsing around.”

The study, published in the April 17th Journal of Adolescent Health, indicated that actions of the driver such as texting, talking on a cell phone, eating and reaching for objects were less likely to result in a “serious incident” than behavior of passengers.

“The results of this study illustrate the importance of …restrictions, which increase the safety of drivers, their passengers and others on the road by reducing the potential chaos that novice drivers experience…This is why the limit of one teen passenger is important when teens are just learning to drive,” said Foss.