A new AAA study out in October shows teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky driving when they have other teenage passengers in the car.
The study comes as the Idaho Transportation Department highlights young driver safety this week.
According to the Idaho State Police, the deadliest driving isn’t always caused by the obvious risks.
“You have to have the courage to say, ‘Hey, that’s distracting me,” said ISP Cpl. Vance Cox.
According to the new American Automobile Association study, a car full of teens could be one of the biggest risks a teen driver can take.
Cox said when most folks think of distractions for teen drivers behind the wheel, they often think about the obvious — like driving under the influence or texting on the phone. Sometimes, said Cox, it’s the everyday stuff that’s most dangerous.
“I think of group photos,” he said. “Sometimes people want to take a photo inside the vehicle, so the driver will lean in to be in that photo and he could jerk the wheel or go off the road and cause a serious crash.”
Cox said driver distraction is one of the most underestimated risk factors teens face in the car.
“There are some teens who feel like pressure to drive ‘cool’ in front of their friends,” said recently-licensed 15-year-old Mikayla Parsons. “Then there are some teens like me who are scared to death to drive and are trying not to get in accidents all the time.”
Parsons said she rarely ever has more than one passenger in her car. According to AAA, that’s a good thing for new drivers.
The new October study by the association shows factors like seat-belt non-use and speeding are more prevalent in teens who have passengers in the car.
Teenage drivers also have the the highest rate of involvement in crashes resulting in the deaths of other people – including passengers.
Those risks are too great for Parsons to take the privilege lightly.
“If you don’t take it seriously you’re going to lose your license anyway, so you might as well take it seriously and be able to drive places,” she said.
Cox agreed. He said if a crash does occur, there’s one person in the car who will bear the burden.
“The driver,” said Cox. “He or she is responsible for everyone in that vehicle.”
Cox said the fatal crashes he’s seen involving teens would have likely had much better outcomes if seat-belts had been used.