Driving with fellow youngsters increases crash risk for Illinois teens

Many teens enjoy driving themselves and their friends around, but a study has shown that having young passengers in their cars increases their crash risk.

Getting their driver's license is something that youths throughout Illinois, and elsewhere, look forward to. Unfortunately, however, auto accidents are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were more than 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 16-years-old and 19-years-old killed in such crashes in 2013 alone. During that same year, more than 243,000 minors of the same ages were treated in emergency departments for injuries they suffered in car collisions.

Study examines the link between crash risk and young passengers for teen drivers

Researchers from the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to estimate the relationship between the accident risk per mile driven for drivers between the ages of 16-years-old and 17-years-old, and the number and ages of the passengers in their vehicles. To do this, they analyzed the collision data for drivers in this age range between the years of 2007 and 2010. The researchers also looked at records pertaining to the number of miles driven between 2008 and 2009.

The study's researchers grouped crashes involving teenage drivers based on a number of classifications. These classifications included the following:

• No passengers in the vehicle

• 1, 2, or three or more passengers under the age of 21-years-old

• At least one passenger aged 35-years or older

• Oldest passenger in the vehicle between 21-years-old and 34-years-old

For the study's purposes, it was assumed that any passengers of unknown ages were under the age of 21-years-old.

Young passengers increase teen drivers' crash risk

Based on the study's findings, having passengers under the age of 21-years-old increase the crash risk for teenage drivers. With one passenger under 21-years-old in the vehicle, teens had an increased risk of being killed in a collision of 44 percent. When teen drivers had two passengers under the age of 21-years-old in their vehicles, they were twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident as they are when they were driving alone. This risk was essentially quadrupled for teen drivers who had three or more passengers who were not yet 21-years-old in their vehicles.

On the other hand, the study showed that drivers between 16-years-old and 17-years-old have a decreased accident risk when they have passengers over the age of 35-years-old. The researchers found that having older passengers in their vehicles decreased their risk of being involved in any type of collision by 46 percent. Teenage drivers' risk of being involved in a deadly crash decreases by 62 percent when they have at least one passenger over the age of 35-years-old in their vehicle.

Consulting with an attorney

Should teenage drivers throughout Illinois cause collisions, whether they are driving with friends or not, the effects may be devastating for those involved. The teens themselves, as well as other drivers or passengers, may suffer serious injuries or death. However, in some cases the motorists responsible for causing serious crashes may be held financially responsible for the resulting damages, regardless of their ages. Therefore, those who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident may benefit from discussing their situation and options with an attorney.