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Study: Teens take more deadly risks with peers in car

Tuesday - 10/16/2012, 7:40am  ET

Lacey Mason, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Speeding, drinking and driving late at night are more likely to occur among 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers as the number of their teenage passengers increases, a study by AAA says.

The information from AAA comes as a follow-up to a May study in which the organization found that 16- or 17-year-old drivers are more likely to have a fatal crash when they carry more passengers younger than 21.

AAA found that the risk of dying in a crash for a 16 or 17-year-old driving alone increases to 44 percent with one other passenger younger than 21. With three or more passengers younger than 21, the percentage quadruples.

The study also found that driving with one passenger age 35 or older cuts the risk by 62 percent.

The key finding of the new study is that teens driving with other teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior which, in turn, puts them at a greater risk for a fatal accident.

"We've long known if teen passengers are added when there are teen drivers, the crash rate goes up significantly," Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA, tells The New York Times.

"And intuitively, we've known for decades that speeding, drinking and late-night driving are major causes. This report helps us quantify their prevalence."

Here are some of the key findings of the new AAA study:

  • Among fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers, several risk factors were generally more prevalent when teen passengers (ages 13-19) were present than when the driver was alone, and increased as the number of passengers increased. For example:

    • Prevalence of speeding increased from 30 percent to 44 percent and 48 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively

    • Prevalence of late-night driving (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) increased from 17 percent to 22 percent and 28 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively

    • Prevalence of alcohol use increased from 13 percent to 17 percent and 18 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively

  • All risk factors were more common among male drivers than females

  • Except for lack of a valid license, all risk factors were least prevalent when an adult aged 30 or older was present in the vehicle, which suggests a protective influence that adults have on teen drivers when they ride as passengers.

For more information, check out the study's fact sheet.

WTOP's Veronica Robinson and Lacey Mason contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)