A pair of studies by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm® identify factors that may lead teens to drive with multiple peer passengers and, then, how those passengers may affect their driver's behavior just before a serious crash. The studies were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Experts have long known that peer passengers increase teen driver crash risk. What hasn't been well understood was how they increase crash risk.

The first study surveyed found that teens who are most likely to drive with multiple passengers shared the following characteristics: considered themselves "thrill-seekers," perceived their parents as not setting rules or monitoring their whereabouts, and possessed a weak perception of the risks associated with driving in general.

The second study analyzed teen drivers involved in serious crashes to compare the likelihood of driver distraction and risk-taking behaviors just prior to the crash when teens drive with peer passengers and when they drive alone.

"Both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted just before a crash as compared to teens who crashed while driving alone," explained study author Allison Curry, PhD, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention. "Among the teens who said they were distracted by something inside the vehicle before they crashed, 71 percent of males and 47 percent of females said they were distracted directly by the actions of their passengers."

Additionally, the researchers found males with passengers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively just before a crash, as compared to males driving alone. Females rarely drove aggressively prior to a crash, regardless of whether they had passengers in the car.

Source: MarketWatch
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/teen-passengers-the-other-distraction-for-teen-drivers-2012-01-24