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Passengers as Deadly Distractions - Peers and Older Teen Passengers

General Statistics

  • Two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash with a teen at the wheel.1
  •  It’s more than how passengers act in the car.  One simulator-based study found that just knowing they’re being observed by friends can cause teen drivers to engage in risky driving behaviors.2
  • In 2011, 933 passengers died in crashes with teens behind the wheel. 3
  • Although most pediatricians counsel teens on driving and discuss seat belt use and alcohol use, other important teen driver crash risk factors are not discussed, including nighttime driving and teen passengersrs.4
  • As compared to male teens driving alone, male teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to have been driving aggressively right before they crashed.5
  • Both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted than teens behind the wheel without passengers . Of those carrying passengers who said they were distracted, one in five females (20 percent) and one in four males (24 percent) were distracted by something inside the vehicle just before their crash, with 71 percent of males and 47 percent of females directly distracted by their passengers' movements or actions.5
  • With peer passengers in the car, male teen drivers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and twice more likely to act aggressively before crashing than when driving alone. Conversely, female teen drivers rarely drove aggressively before crashing, regardless of the presence of peer passengerss.5






  1. Winston FK, et al. Risk Factors for Death Among Older Children and Teenage Motor Vehicle Passengers. Archives of Pediatric Medicine. March 2008.
  2. Steinberg L. Risk-taking in adolescence: What changes, and why? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2004; 1021:51-58.
  3. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  4. Weiss JC, O'Neil J, Shope JT, and O'Connor KG. Pediatrician Knowledge, Attitudes, and Counseling Patterns on Teen Driving. Injury Prevention. June 2011.
  5. Curry AE, Mirman JH, Kallan MJ, Winston FK, and Durbin DR. Peer Passengers: How Do They Affect Teen Crashes? Journal of Adolescent Health. January 24, 2012 (online).
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