Why newly licensed teen drivers should not have passengers

In West Virginia and across the U.S., teens are getting into a significant number of car crashes. According to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers raise their risk for a crash by 44% the moment they allow a single teen passenger into their car. The reason is simple: Teens are inexperienced drivers and can easily be distracted by conversations and other passenger behaviors.

The National Safety Council recommends that teens avoid having a passenger in the car for at least their first six months as licensed drivers. Ideally, they should try to go without passengers for a year. This means no special date nights and no picking up friends to go to the movies, the shopping mall or any big events.

Teens should realize that they are not much safer when they themselves are the passengers. If they are to be driven by a peer, parents should ask about several basic things, such as the distance they will go and the possibility of night driving.

In addition, having siblings in the car is more distracting to teen drivers than having a peer passenger. Parents, then, should resist the temptation of having teens run certain errands involving their younger siblings.

In the event that a distracted teen causes a car wreck, the auto insurance company will likely have to face a claim from the other side. Third-party insurance claims can be successful as long as plaintiffs were less than 50% at fault for the accident. This is according to West Virginia's rule of comparative negligence. Even then, a victim's settlement will be proportioned to their degree of fault. To find out if they have a strong case, victims may consult a lawyer.

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