New AAA study finds increased risk for crashes when teens drive other teens

Posted at 8:43 AM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 10:58:50-04

DENVER — A new study from AAA’s 2016 crash data found that teen drivers put others on the road at risk when they get behind the wheel.

According to a new AAA analysis of 2016 crash data, 50 Coloradans were killed in crashes involving teen drivers that year. This data was released just prior to National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from Oct. 21-27.

"By their very nature, teens tend to be less experienced and more reckless than any other group of drivers," said AAA spokesman Skyler McKinley. "In concert, those characteristics increase the odds of a deadly outcome -- not just for the teen driver but for their passengers and others on the roadways, including pedestrians and bicyclists." 

However, research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety did find what it calls a “surefire way to lower fatality rates”: Not letting teens ride in the car with other teens. The research found that when a teen driver has only other teens in the car as passengers, the fatality rate for everybody involved in a crash increased 51 percent.

In contrast, when passengers who are over the age of 35 ride with a teen driver, the fatality rates decreased by 8 percent.

Nationwide, in 2016, teen drivers were involved in more than 1 million reported crashes that resulted in more than 3,200 deaths. AAA researchers found that when teens were driving with teen passengers, fatality rates jumped up:

  • 56 percent for people of the other vehicle(s)
  • 45 percent for the teen driver
  • 17 percent for pedestrians and cyclists

"When you break down the data, it becomes clear that the risks posed by teen drivers are a public health issue," McKinley said. "In crashes where teen drivers are behind the wheel with a teen passenger, a majority of those killed are other road users. Parents need to take this rite of passage seriously by setting and consistently enforcing rules to limit teenage passengers in the vehicle." 

AAA advised parents to help their teens become responsible and safe drivers by:

  • Requiring teens to log at least 100 hours of supervised practice driving with a parent before driving alone
  • Practicing driving in low-risk situations and gradually move to situations that are more complex, like highways, driving in poor weather or at night, and on challenging roadways, such as mountain roads and those with sharp curves
  • Allowing no more than one non-family passenger under the age of 20 to ride with the teen driver during the first six months they’re driving
  • Using slightly different routes each practice session
  • Practicing adjusting speed based on visibility, traffic and road conditions