Report: Teen passengers are a threat to teen drivers in Texas

The Texas Department of Public Safety has rules in place to protect teenage drivers and their passengers. Teens younger than 18 are required to participate in the state’s Graduated Driver License Program, which sets certain provisions regarding whom may ride with the young driver.

For example, drivers with a learner license must have a licensed adult 21 or older in the front seat. Further, drivers in the program may not operate a vehicle that has more than one passenger who is younger than 21 and is not a family member.

These laws are in place for good reason. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated the risk of a fatal crash as it relates to teenage drivers and their passengers. Researchers found that, when it comes to 16- and 17-year-old drivers, carrying one or more passengers significantly increases the risk of an incident.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a similar study but focused on the age of the passengers. That study concluded the following for 16- and 17-year-old drivers:

  • Having one passenger 21 or younger increased the risk of the driver’s death by 44 percent.
  • Having two passengers 21 or younger doubled the risk of the driver’s death.
  • Having three or more passengers 21 or younger quadrupled the risk of the driver’s death.

However, both studies concluded that having an older licensed driver present in the front seat actually correlated with a decrease in the risk of death. Researchers on both projects recommended graduated license program’s similar to Texas’ in which an older adult is present as the young motorist learns the rules of the road.

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