New Study Shows How California Law Lowers Risk Of Serious Teenage Auto Accidents

kidsAs a father of four children and an Alameda car accident lawyer, I have a lot of experience with teenage drivers. I’ve heard and seen just about everything when it comes to teenagers and driving. When my third youngest child got her license about three years ago, California had just enacted a new law, which placed more restrictions on teenage drivers.

That California law provides that a new driver under the age of 18 will receive a provisional license. During the first 12 months after obtaining the license he/she must not transport anyone one under the age of twenty at any time unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Driving between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. is strictly prohibited.

You should have heard the complaints my daughter voiced for the entire 12 months that she was under the restrictions. Now, my youngest son is just finishing his provisional driving period and the kid’s complaints and arguments, and my responses remain the same. Other kids in the car are a big distraction for new drivers, that can and do, lead to serious personal injury car accidents.

Now I have a new study to back up what I knew all along. The American Automobile Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report showing a strong relationship between the number of passengers in the vehicle and the risk of a teenage driver dying in the car crash. The study found that the likelihood of a fatal accident with a teenage driver under the age of 18 increased with each addition young passenger present in the car. Look at these eye popping statistics:

  • Fatality risks increases 44% when carrying one passenger younger than age 21 (and no older passengers)
  • Fatality risk doubles when carrying two passengers under age twenty-one;
  • The risk of death quadruples when carrying three or more young passengers under the age of 21.

One of the kids’ biggest arguments for driving other teenagers is the standard refrain “that everyone else’s parents” allows them to drive others. So the first thing we have to do as responsible parents is to make sure our own kids are obeying the law. So, we shouldn’t be allowing our kids to drive others while they still have their provisional license, nor should we allow our kids to be passengers in their friend’s car while they have provisional licenses. Signing a parent teen driving agreement that the child will not drive others reinforces the importance of this. Make sure other parents are aware of the law if you know that their child is driving others while under age. Finally, help provide other transportation alternatives for the kids to alleviate some of the hardships that do arise sometimes by complying with this law.

We know anecdotally (and probably experientially) that the more kids are in a car, the more distractions there will be, and the greater likelihood of a serious or even fatal car accident. Now a study proves this. As responsible parents, it is our duty to make sure our kids comply with the law and drive safely. I encourage you to talk about this study with your children, and your children’s friends’ parents. The more our kids obey the provisional driver restrictions, the safer they will be.


Teen Driver Safety, AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, May 8, 2012
California Teens, California Department of Motor Vehicles

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