Study Shows Teen Drivers Exhibit Unsafe Behavior When Teen Passengers Present
An NICHD study shows that teen drivers are more likely to exhibit unsafe driving behaviors when there is another teen as a passenger in the vehicle.
Schmalfeldt: It's one of those things that when you hear about it, you almost want to say, "tell me something I DON'T know!"
Simons-Morton: Well, it's long been suspected that teens drive in a more risky manner than adults, but there's actually no data to show that — only the anecdotal data of every parent of a teenage driver.
Schmalfeldt: That was Doctor Bruce Simons-Morton, chief of the Prevention Research Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development with news that comes as no surprise to any parent of teens who pays the monthly auto insurance bill. But now, there is some data that indicates teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky driving when they have another teen in the car with them. The study showed that teen drivers — both male and female — were more likely to tailgate and exceed the speed limit if there was a teenage male passenger in the front seat. Also, female teens were slightly more likely to tailgate if there was a female teen passenger in the vehicle. Conversely, male teens were less likely to tailgate or exceed the speed limit when a teen female was in the front passenger seat. Still, crash rates were higher for 16- and 17-year old drivers in the presence of teen passengers. The study didn't determine why teens engage in these behaviors. Dr. Simons-Morton says they're getting to that part.
Simons-Morton: In future research we plan to examine in a great deal more detail what's going on inside the vehicle. We plan to have instruments in the vehicles, following volunteers for up to 18 months to see exactly how driving behavior among novice teen drivers changes in the presence of passengers and under various driving conditions which could really tell us a lot about teen driving risks.
Schmalfeldt: So what can parents and policy makers take away from this study?
Simons-Morton: The most important thing that the parent of a teen can do is limit the driving conditions of their novice teen driver. The two most important driving conditions that are related to crashes are nighttime driving and with teen passengers. Each teen passenger increases the risk of a crash. In terms of policy, most states have adopted graduated drivers licensing policies which do place limits, at least, on late night driving. But they tend not to be that strict. A few states have adopted restrictions on teen passengers, and I think we're going to see that more and more.
Schmalfeldt: You can see more information on these statistics by logging onto www.nichd.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton
Topic: Teen Driving