Teens Driving Teens: A Deadly Combination

Teen passengers present in nearly half of fatal teen driver crashes in Arizona

Phoenix. Oct. 12, 2012. A new AAA study underscores the danger of a car full of teens. In light of this new information, and in honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 14-20), AAA is urging parents to remain involved in their teen’s driving even after they have their license.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, risky driving behavior among 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes increased when other teens were their passengers. Nationally 9,578 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes from 2005 to 2010, and 3,994 — or 42 percent — of these included at least one teen passenger.  In Arizona, teen passengers were present in 47 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers during the same five-year period. The study also found all of the risk factors to be more common among male drivers than among female.

“Inexperience paired with risky behavior behind the wheel is the main cause of teen crashes,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “Previous AAA research has proved factors such as nighttime driving or additional teen passengers multiply crash risk, but this new information opens our eyes to just how much that risk is magnified with teen passengers.”

According to the study, the prevalence of risky behaviors generally grew for teen drivers as the number of teen passengers increased. For example, the table below shows the prevalence for teens to speed with no teen passengers increases from 30 percent to 44 percent with two teen passengers in the vehicle:

Prevalence of risky behavior

 With no teen passengers

With 2 teen passengers

With 3+ teen passengers


30 percent

44 percent

48 percent

Late-night driving

17 percent

22 percent

28 percent

Alcohol use

13 percent

17 percent

18 percent

“Arizona’s Graduated Driver’s License Law limits teen passengers for teens during the restricted phase,” said Gorman. “However, once teens have their full license, it’s up to parents to take steps, such as enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement, to help keep new teens drivers safe while they gradually build experience.”

As an advocate for all road users, and to help families improve their teens’ safety as they begin driving, AAA offers the following tips to parents:

  • Practice makes perfect. Arizona requires teens to drive only 30 supervised hours before earning their full license. However, AAA encourages parents to double those hours and continue practicing together even after the teen is licensed to drive solo to ensure that basic skills are mastered and to introduce progressively challenging conditions like rain, heavy traffic and rural roads.
  • Limit teen passengers. In Arizona, newly licensed teens may not drive with more than one passenger younger than 18 for the first six months. Parents are urged to extend this restriction until they are fully confident in their teen’s driving ability.
  • Establish a parent-teen contract. State laws help place teens in lower-threat situations, but parents should still determine the driving limits, privileges and responsibilities that are right for their teens. A parent-teen contract can help establish these boundaries. Families can find a sample contract at TeenDriving.AAA.com/AZ.
  • Take advantage of AAA resources. AAA offers a host of tools and programs to help families through teens’ learning-to-drive years. Free resources include the Keys2Drive website and Permit Prep 101, a workshop for new teen drivers and their families. AAA Insurance also endorses teenSmart, a computer-based driver tutorial that can help families save up to 24 percent when they add their teen to their AAA auto policy. Visit AAA.com/teendriving to learn about these and more resources.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic crashes continue to be the leading cause of deaths for teens. Last year in Arizona, there were 56 teen drivers and passengers between the ages of 15 and 19 killed in crashes – a 51 percent increase from 2010. While that is down 16 percent from 2008 when the state’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law took effect, AAA believes there is still room to improve.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed data on fatal crashes that occurred in the United States from 2005 through 2010. The report documents the prevalence of passengers ages 13-19 in fatal crashes involving drivers age 16 and 17, and examines the characteristics of those crashes according to age, sex and number of teen passengers present.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.