Ask a teenager what it means to get a license and their response is often “freedom.” If you think about it, driving is the last life skill that we impart to our children before they really do begin to experience young adulthood and freedom. They are no longer dependent on their parents to get them where they need or want to be. That freedom also includes the ability to “hang out” and that often means they are out driving with friends in their cars. Unfortunately, passengers are one of the major contributing factors to teen car crashes and it is likely because of the peer pressure to potentially engage in unsafe behavior. Studies indicate that when you add one teenage passenger to a novice driver’s car, those teen drivers are 50% more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash, and with every additional teen passenger the risk increases. It is why DrivingMBA highly recommends to students and their parents that they should not have passengers in their vehicle for at least one year after licensure. We realize that that is a difficult expectation, however, that year provides them that much more opportunity to stay focused on driving and to continue to develop their driving skills.
The teenage years are some of the most difficult and dangerous times in our children’s lives. It seems like they have much more to deal with than we did when we were growing up and the pressure to “fit in” is ever increasing. Studies also indicate that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior and controls multi-tasking ability, judgment and decision making, is not fully formed until age 25 and beyond. Young people consistently take greater risks when their friends are watching. When teenagers are asked if they have ever felt unsafe while driving with friends, over 65% of them admit that they have. Most of them say that they were uncomfortable admitting it to the driver, so they often sit quietly and “hope” they’ll get to their destination. They are afraid of being ridiculed or believe that the driver won’t listen or worse, may escalate the behavior.
Studies also indicate that teens have the lowest seat belt use of all drivers and that this rate decreases even further when there are other teens in their cars. We ask students why they or their friends don’t use their safety belts and many of them say: “because they forget, or they don’t think they need them, or it isn’t cool. “
Many states have Graduated Driver License laws (GDL) prohibiting passengers or limiting the number of passengers a novice driver can have in their vehicle. The restriction varies from state to state. Those states that have instituted strong GDL’s have seen a decrease in teen driving crashes. While it isn’t an “easy rule” to institute, DrivingMBA recommends that parents create their own rule about passengers for their newly licensed teens. While it can be a battle, because the teens don’t think it is necessary, or it isn’t going to happen to them, it happens to an average of 10 teens every day. Teenage car crashes remain the #1 reason for teen deaths and the number of young drivers injured every year are staggering. When you consider the consequences, having to reinforce a rule like 0 passengers is nothing compared to having to deal with life changing injuries or the loss of our kids.