Distracted driving is the number one cause of car accidents in the U.S. Among age groups, statistics indicate that teen drivers are the most at risk of being involved in a fatal crash related to distracted driving. Distracted driving is not only about cell phone use. Distracted driving can be any type of activity that diverts the attention of the driver from the road. Passengers behavior may distract the driver, especially when teens are sharing a car. This is the reason why programs such as the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) recommend to limit the number of passengers in the car for new teen drivers.
To better understand how a teen driver perceives the risks of driving with other passengers, Catherine C. Mc Donald, PHD, RN at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA and Marilyn S. Sommers, PhD, RN, FAAN, Lillian S. Brunner Professor of Medical–Surgical Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA conducted focus groups and interviews with teen drivers. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing. The study entitled “Good Passengers and Not Good Passengers:” Adolescent Drivers’ Perceptions About Inattention and Peer Passengers, found that depending on situations, other passengers behavior may reduce accident risks. Accidents risks are lowered when another passenger helps the teen driver with technology such as GPS, cell phone or music. However when music is played too loud or other passengers distract the driver with Snapchat or other cell phone apps the risk of accidents increases.
When teaching and discussing road safety with their teens or when handing their car keys to them, parents should keep this study in mind. While passengers behaving badly may increase the risk of accidents related to distracted driving, the help of a good passenger may prevent teens getting distracted while driving.