Most teen crashes involve peer pressure, studies show

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Teen driver

Most teen drivers take the privilege seriously. Image: meghannash/Flickr/CC BY

A pair of new studies have found that the largest reason that teenagers get into car crashes isn’t alcohol, drugs or even texting. It’s that innate human need to fit in to a group: peer pressure.

‘Thrill seekers’ love company

The first study, by insurance giant State Farm and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, surveyed nearly 200 teens and discovered that “thrill seekers” — those who don’t believe their parents should set the rules for them — are the most likely to drive around with their friends as passengers.

The study’s author, Allison Curry, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, said that these teens are also the least likely to consider the dangers inherent in driving.

Jessica Mirman, also of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, said in a press release:

“The good news is that that these teens make up the minority. Teens in this study generally reported strong perceptions of the risks of driving, low frequencies of driving with multiple passengers and strong beliefs that their parents monitored their behavior and set rules.”

Boys worst violators

A separate study, also by State Farm and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, found that 70 percent of teenage boys in serious accidents were distracted from driving by interactions with one or more young passengers. That figure was just under 50 percent for teenage girls.

The study of 677 teen drivers also found that when teenage boys are driving with friends in the car, they are twice as likely to drive in an aggressive manner. And they are six times more likely to show off by speeding and breaking other traffic laws.

Most teens are responsible

Mirman, author of the second study, noted:

“Most teens take driving seriously and act responsibly behind the wheel. However, some may not realize how passengers can directly affect their driving. Teen passengers can intentionally and unintentionally encourage unsafe driving. Because it can be difficult for new drivers to navigate the rules of the road and manage passengers, it’s best to keep the number of passengers to a minimum for the first year.”

Although it has long been known that teens driving with friends as passengers are more prone to accidents. But, according to Curry, the reasons why that is so have never been formally studied before this.

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Curry concluded:

“These studies help us understand the factors that may predispose teens to drive with multiple friends and how those passengers may contribute to crashes by distracting the driver and promoting risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating or weaving.”


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