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New research supports the fact that teen drivers are at high risk on the road – particularly when they are not traveling alone.

Findings by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety support that a teen driver is at greatest risk when he or she has a teenage passenger.

When a teen driver has only teen passengers in the vehicle, the fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increased 51 percent, according to the AAA research. By contrast, when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, overall fatality rates in crashes decreased 8 percent.

In 2016, teen drivers were involved in more than 1 million police-reported crashes resulting in more than 3,200 deaths. Researchers pinpointed that when teens were carrying teen passengers, fatality rates jumped:

• 56 percent for occupants of other vehicles.

• 45 percent for the teen driver.

• 17 percent for pedestrians and cyclists.

In South Carolina, there were 46 fatalities and 6,154 injuries from a crash involving a teen driver in 2017, according to the SCDPS.

“This analysis shows that in crashes where teen drivers are behind the wheel with a teen passenger, a larger portion of those killed are other road users,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety president. “This study also found the fatality rate of a teen-driver-related crash increased when factors like speeding or driving at night, were introduced.”

“These numbers are staggering, and parents and role models can do better to set good examples behind the wheel for our teens,” Wright said. “Teens simply lack experience behind the wheel, which increases the odds of a deadly outcome, not just for the teen driver, but for their passengers and others on the roadways.”

Supervised driving – with parents in the passenger seat as the coach -- is the first step in teaching teens how to become responsible and safe drivers. Here’s some advice via AAA about supervision:

• Require teens to log at least 100 hours of supervised practice driving with a parent before driving solo.

• Begin by practicing driving in low-risk situations and gradually move to situations that are more complex: highways, nighttime, driving in the rain, and on and around challenging roadways (e.g., curves).

• Allow no more than one non-family passenger under the age of 20 to ride with the teen driver during the first six months of driving.

• Use slightly different routes each practice session.

• Practice adjusting speed based on three factors: visibility, on-road traffic and different road conditions.

Considering the increased risk created by a combination of teen drivers and teen passengers, getting serious about educating young drivers via direct supervision in different driving scenarios is not just sound advice, it is a lifesaving necessity.

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