Teen car accidents in Washington State are not only a giant concern for parents, but also legislators. Washington State is one of the more active members of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which brought Graduated Driver Laws (GDL). These laws set guidelines as to how teenagers can drive at night, with passengers, and at what ages they can do these things.

Though the details vary by state, they stay under the same general principles of young driver safety and graduated system of licensure over a period of time.

  • Learner Stage: supervised driving, cumulating with a driving test
  • Intermediate Stage: limiting unsupervised driving in high risk situations
  • Full Privilege Stage: a standard driver’s license

These laws have come under attack as some studies have shown that they do not address maturity, which can vary from person to person and can be the difference in some of the most dangerous situations, namely, driving with passenger distractions.

Passenger Distractions

Teenagers can be an excitable lot, particularly when they’re in the car experiencing a freedom they had been previously deprived. As you’ll see, there are lots of reasons for these distractions and they can vary by gender, but what is not under dispute is that passenger distraction is considered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as one of the biggest causes of teen car accidents.

Since car accidents are the leading cause of death for people 16 to 25, this has made passenger distractions a huge concern for traffic safety officials and advocates. This week has also perhaps marked a turning point as two studies came out showing some of the causal factors involved in passenger distraction.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm both published their studies in the Journal of Adolescent Health. They don’t specifically show the danger of distraction, that was already know, instead they help us understand the factors that may predispose teens to drive with multiple friends and how those passengers may contribute to crashes by distracting the driver and promoting risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, or weaving.

“Knowing this, we can develop programs that work in tandem with current Graduated Driver Licensing laws,” said study author Allison Curry, PhD, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.

The first study surveyed 198 teen drivers. For the most part teens in this study generally reported strong perceptions of the risks of driving, low frequencies of driving with multiple passengers, and strong beliefs that their parents monitored their behavior and set rules.

However, the teens who are most likely to drive with multiple passengers shared the following characteristics:

  • Considered themselves “thrill-seekers.”
  • Perceived their parents as not setting rules or monitoring their whereabouts.
  • Possessed a weak perception of the risks associated with driving in general.

Teen Passenger Distraction Risk By Gender

The State Farm study analyzed 677 teen drivers involved in serious crashes and compared the likelihood of driver distraction and risk-taking behaviors just prior to the crash when teens drive with peer passengers as opposed to when they drive alone.

Researchers found that both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted just before a crash as compared to teens who crashed while driving alone. However, 71% of males as compared to 47% of females said they were distracted directly by the actions of their passengers.

The study found males with passengers were nearly 6x more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and 2x more likely to drive aggressively just before a crash, as compared to males driving alone. Females rarely drove aggressively prior to a crash, regardless of whether they had passengers in the car.

“Teen passengers can intentionally and unintentionally encourage unsafe driving,” said Dr. Mirman. “It’s best to keep the number of passengers to a minimum for the first year.”

The study authors also emphasized the important role parents play in supporting safe driving among teens and their passengers.

“Combined with Graduated Driver Licensing laws that limit passengers for the first year of driving, involved parents are an effective strategy to protect teens from a dangerous and preventable crash risk – driving with their friends,” said Chris Mullen, research director at State Farm

They recommend parents set a house rule of no non-sibling teen passengers for the first six months of driving and only one non-sibling passenger for the second six months.

When combined with a study conducted by the University of California, which (amongst a ton of other valuable information) revealed the causal behaviors cited in teen passenger distraction car accidents by gender as you can see in the chart below.

Washington Car Accident Lawyers

The attorneys at Phillips Law Firm support any effort that keeps teenage drivers and their families safe. We have seen how the terrible grief over the loss of a loved one torn away at the beginning of their lives due to a car accident can rip apart families and send shockwaves through a community.

Phillips Law Firm represents families of victims who have been injured or died in car accidents in Washington state. We are skilled attorneys in wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits with years of experience that they will use to assure that you get the compensation you deserve. Call today for a free consultation.