Of all the distractions that can endanger teen drivers, the biggest is having other teens in the car. In fact, the risk of a crash doubles when a teen has one “peer passenger” in the car and triples where there’s more than one.
That’s why state graduated driver license (GDL) programs typically limit or prohibit teen passengers for newly licensed drivers. Here in Texas, drivers under 18 who have a provisional license may not have more than one non-family-member passenger under the age of 21 in the vehicle when they’re behind the wheel.
Of course, siblings of any age can be just as distracting, if not more so, to a teen driver as their friends might be. Therefore, parents may want to institute their own rules above and beyond what’s required by law to mandate that their new teen driver doesn’t drive with one of their other kids in the car — no matter how convenient it may be to ask them to take their brother or sister to and from school or other activities.
Peer passengers can distract teen drivers by talking to them, encouraging them to sing along with music or getting them involved in phone calls or texts. Another danger, particularly for teen boys, is that they will be encouraged to drive recklessly. According to a study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, male teens involved in crashes who had peer passengers were twice as likely to have been driving aggressively and six times as likely to have been making some type of illegal driving move as those in the car alone.
Here’s another sobering fact: Although the number of deaths of passengers in cars driven by teens declined by 5% between 2008 and 2017, two-thirds of those passengers were between 15 and 20 years old.
As a parent, it’s essential that you know the Texas GDL laws for teen drivers and not be afraid to augment those with your own restrictions. Teens are going to encounter all sorts of negligent and reckless drivers, and they need to keep all of their attention on the road.
If your teen is injured in a crash caused by another driver, don’t let them take the blame for something that wasn’t their fault. Make sure you get the compensation you need to cover medical bills and other expenses and damages.