Passengers pose threat to teenage drivers in West Virginia

Teenage drivers who are carrying young passengers are at an increased risk of getting into a car accident.

Last December, a 15-year-old girl and her 16-year-old passenger were driving through West Virginia when the vehicle lost control. According to the West Virginia Metro News, law enforcement said that speed played a roll in the incident, which caused the young driver to be ejected from the vehicle. The driver died from her injuries, and her passenger was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

According to research, one of the biggest threats facing teenage drivers is having other young passengers in the vehicle. Parents in West Virginia can do their part to help their teenagers learn responsibility behind the wheel.

The disturbing numbers

A recent report from AAA shows that when it comes to moderate to severe car accidents involving teenagers, six out of 10 are related to distractions. While many may think that cellphone use is the leading factor in these incidents, the study actually found that talking with other passengers was the most prevalent distraction, involved in 15 percent of these incidents. As the CEO of the organization points out, it is especially dangerous that these young drivers have not had sufficient time behind the wheel and are undertaking significant distractions while driving.

A significantly increased risk

The AAA Foundation recently conducted a study to evaluate just how risky it is for teenage drivers to carry passengers in their vehicles. Among the findings were the following:

  • One passenger who is younger than 21 increases the risk of a car accident by 44 percent.
  • Two passengers younger than 21 doubles the risk of a crash.
  • Three or more passengers younger than 21 quadruples the risk.

There is a ray of hope: The study found that when a 16- or 17-year-old is carrying a passenger who is 35 or older, the risk of an accident actually decreases by 62 percent.

West Virginia's graduated license program

West Virginia has a graduated license program intended to slowly introduce driving to teenagers. Starting with an instructional permit at age 15, a young driver can move to an intermediate license at 16 before obtaining a license at 17. The program requires written tests, on-the-road training and no violations in order to proceed through the steps.

Another excellent provision is that anyone who has an instructional permit or intermediate license must have a licensed driver 21 or older in the vehicle, though the hours for this requirement are restricted for intermediate license holders. According to the AAA Foundation, having an adult present in the vehicle is an excellent way to teach young drivers good habits that will hopefully last into adulthood.

People who have questions regarding West Virginia's driving laws should consult with an attorney.