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Peer passengers 'the other distraction' for teen drivers

Washington, Wed, 25 Jan 2012 ANI

Washington, Jan 25 (ANI): Researchers have now identified key factors, which influence teen drivers and increase risk of car crash.

 

A pair of studies by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm spotted factors that may lead teens to drive with multiple peer passengers and, then, how those passengers may affect their driver's behaviour just before a serious crash.

 

Experts have long known that peer passengers increase teen driver crash risk. What hasn't been well understood was how they increase crash risk.

 

"These studies help us understand the factors that may predispose teens to drive with multiple friends and how those passengers may contribute to crashes by distracting the driver and promoting risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, or weaving," said study author Allison Curry, PhD, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.

 

"Knowing this, we can develop programs that work in tandem with current Graduated Driver Licensing laws that limit the number of passengers for teens during their first year of driving."

 

The first study surveyed 198 teen drivers and found that teens who are most likely to drive with multiple passengers shared the following characteristics: considered themselves "thrill-seekers," perceived their parents as not setting rules or monitoring their whereabouts, and possessed a weak perception of the risks associated with driving in general.

 

"The good news is that that these teens make up the minority," said Jessica Mirman, PhD, study author and a behavioural researcher.

 

"Teens in this study generally reported strong perceptions of the risks of driving, low frequencies of driving with multiple passengers, and strong beliefs that their parents monitored their behavior and set rules."

 

The second study analyzed a nationally-representative sample of 677 teen drivers involved in serious crashes to compare the likelihood of driver distraction and risk-taking behaviours just prior to the crash when teens drive with peer passengers and when they drive alone.

 

"Both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted just before a crash as compared to teens who crashed while driving alone," explained Dr. Curry.

 

"Among the teens who said they were distracted by something inside the vehicle before they crashed, 71 percent of males and 47 percent of females said they were distracted directly by the actions of their passengers."

 

"Most teens take driving seriously and act responsibly behind the wheel. However, some may not realize how passengers can directly affect their driving," said Dr. Mirman.

 

"Teen passengers can intentionally and unintentionally encourage unsafe driving. Because it can be difficult for new drivers to navigate the rules of the road and manage passengers, it's best to keep the number of passengers to a minimum for the first year," Dr. Mirman added.

 

The studies have been recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. (ANI)

 


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