Here’s a joke that we assume AAA statisticans try on each other at their Applebee’s holiday parties: what’s more dangerous than a teenager in a car? Two teenagers in a car. What’s more dangerous than two teenagers in a car? Six teenagers in a car, at least, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which confirms what we already know: the more 16- and 17-year-olds in a car, the greater the risk that they will crash.
Risky behavior for teens in this case includes the chance of an accident, but also speeding, driving late at night and driving drunk. Teens were 44 percent more likely to speed with two of their buddies in the car, and 48 percent more likely with three. Driving at night also increased in line with more friends piled in, and the chance of alcohol use shot up 5 percent with more passengers.
Already there are graduated licensing programs that forbid student drivers from driving with anyone other than a parent or guardian riding shotgun. In the state of Massachusetts where your humble chronicler first slid behind the driver’s seat of a 1996 Nissan Sentra XE, anyone with a learner’s permit cannot drive anyone under the age of 21. In California, that age increases to 25. No cell phones, either!
Naturally, AAA applauds this sort of thing.
“Graduated driver licensing programs have been shown to greatly reduce crashes, injuries and deaths for everyone on the road when they limit new teen drivers to no more than one passenger,” said Robert Darbelnet, the president of AAA. “Steps parents can take, such as setting and enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement, can build on state laws to improve safety by gradually easing teens into driving.”