Passengers: A major distraction for teenage drivers in Ohio

Teenager drivers and their parents should have an understanding of how dangerous it may be to have passengers in the vehicle.

By now, most parents in Ohio are aware of major risks to their teenage driver's safety: texting behind the wheel, drinking alcohol or speeding, for example. However, one often-overlooked problem is the distraction that passengers cause. In fact, a recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that having other people in the car may be even riskier than using a cellphone.

The study

To evaluate the most common types of distractions teenagers face while behind the wheel, researchers reviewed 1,691 crashes that took place between August of 2007 and July of 2013. Each of the crashes involved a driver between the ages of 16 and 19. The study took into account in-vehicle video of the six seconds prior to the car accident.

Of the 1,691 crashes reviewed, researchers found that in 58 percent, the driver was inattentive at the time of the incident. The findings revealed that of those distracted driving incidents, the following was true:

  • In 15 percent of the crashes, the driver was interacting with passengers.
  • The driver was using a cellphone in 12 percent of incidents.
  • Looking at something inside or outside the vehicle was linked to 10 percent and 9 percent of the accidents, respectively.

It is also important to note that in 36 percent of all crashes, passengers were present. The vast majority of those passengers - 84 percent - were believed to be between the ages of 16 and 19.

Increased risky behavior

The above study is not the only one to have examined how passengers play a role in teenage driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that when a teenage driver has a teenage passenger present, he or she is 2.5 times more likely to engage in a risky behavior - such as speeding - than if he or she is driving alone. If more than one teenage passenger is present, the likelihood of poor driving behavior increases to three times.

Ohio's restrictions

Ohio has had the foresight to pass legislation regarding teenagers and passengers in an effort to curb motor vehicle accidents. According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the state's graduated license program restricts the passengers a novice driver may have in the vehicle. For example, in the first 12 months of having a license, the young driver may only have a non-family member passenger in the car if a parent is present.

Beyond the law, parents should exercise due diligence in teaching teenagers good driving habits. That includes knowing how to block out passengers to focus on the road and the surroundings.

It is an unfortunate fact that teenagers are involved in car accidents at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of teenage deaths is a car crash. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Ohio.