Higher fatality risk found for teen drivers with more passengers

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – There's a new warning for parents of young drivers. Teens are far more likely to die behind the wheel when they have other teens in the car.

That's the finding of a new study recently released by AAA, but several local students say the results will have little effect on their driving habits.

When teenagers are old enough to get their driver's license in Newport, they're ready to do more than just shuttle themselves to school.

"Well, there's really nothing to do in Newport besides ride around," said Allison Victory, a junior at Newport High School.

Victory and her friends pass the time by driving around town, not really doing much of anything but burning fuel.

"I'm going to admit, when I have friends with me, you tend to just drive a little faster," Junior Leaetta Odglen said. "You want the music to be a lot louder, especially girls. We're always talking like 90 to nothing, just loud talking."

Odglen admits her friends can create distractions when she's behind the wheel, and that can come with deadly consequences.

According to a recent study by AAA, a 16- or 17-year-old driver was 44 percent more likely to die in a crash, per mile driven, with one passenger under 21-years-old. The risk of a fatal wreck quadruples, however, when teen drivers carry three or more passengers younger than 21.

"It sounds like it's probably true," said Abbey Jones, a sophomore, "but the only wreck I've had I was alone, by myself just listening to music and, wham, hit a car."

Jones prefers being the passenger rather than the driver, and her friend Morgan Menley says the more, the merrier. She says the extra passengers help her stay focused.

"You're not just worried about your safety anymore," the Newport sophomore said. "You're worried about everyone else's, so you have to buckle up and just try to keep it down."

Things change, though, when an adult is in the passenger seat. Researchers say having at least one person 35 or older in the car can cut a teen driver's risk of dying by more than 60 percent.

To view the full AAA study, click here.

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