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Potential benefits of restrictions on the transport of teenage passengers by 16 and 17 year old drivers

Chen, Li-Hui; Braver, Elisa R.; Baker, Susan P.; Li, Guohua
Injury Prevention
June 2001

Objectives—The presence of passengers is associated with fatal motor vehicle crashes of teenage drivers. A restriction against newly licensed teenage drivers carrying passengers has been included in some, but not all, graduated licensing systems. The purpose of this study was to predict the net effects on all types of road users, including vehicle occupants and non-occupants, of possible prohibitions against 16–17 year old drivers carrying passengers. Methods—Two national datasets, a census of fatal crashes and a sample of trips in the United States, were used to compute 1995 road user death rates. Potential effects of restrictions on drivers ages 16–17 carrying passengers younger than 20 were estimated, based on road user death rates and potential choices made by passengers who would have traveled with 16–17 year old drivers if there were no restrictions. Results—There were 1181 road user deaths in 1995 involving drivers ages 16–17 whose passengers were all younger than age 20. The predicted number of lives in the United States that would be saved annually ranges from 83 to 493 (corresponding to reductions of 7–42% in road user deaths) for drivers ages 16 and 17 combined. Similar percentages of reductions (8–44%) were predicted solely for 16 year old drivers. Assuming passenger restrictions would apply to all 16 year old drivers and at least one third of 17 year old drivers, an estimated 60–344 fewer deaths per year may occur if restrictions are mandated. Conclusions—Restrictions on carrying passengers younger than 20 should be considered for inclusion in graduated licensing systems. Even if fewer than half the drivers obey the restrictions, a substantial reduction in road user deaths would be expected. Further evaluation based on real world experience is needed to confirm their efficacy.