Staying Focused—and Avoiding Accidents—When Your Passengers Are a Distraction

When thinking of some of the most common and dangerous driver distractions, things like texting, grooming, and drowsy driving are often at the top of the list. One distraction that may not immediately come to mind is passengers. Yet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they’re a contributing factor in more than half of all reported distracted driving accidents. With over 481,000 drivers using their cell phones every day while driving, adding a distracting passenger to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

Distracting passengers and car accidents Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultAlthough adult passengers can cause you to lose focus while driving, kids and babies are much more likely to take your eyes off the road. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that young children are four times more distracting than adult passengers, while infants are a whopping eight times more distracting.

But what’s the driving demographic most likely to be distracted by their passengers? Teenagers.

Statistics found that 60% of teen crashes involve driver distraction, many due to the passengers that are along for the ride. In fact, according to statistics cited by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, a teen driver’s crash risk doubles when they have one teen passenger, and triples with two or more of their peers.

How can you prevent passenger distractions? No longer carrying passengers isn’t a very realistic option but, fortunately, it isn’t necessary.

While unruly passengers can be distracting, in many circumstances, the people in your car can also be an asset. A University of Utah study found that conscientious passengers can help keep drivers alert and, unlike people on the other end of a cell phone conversation who can’t see the road, passengers know to pause the conversation when the situation demands. They can also help you avoid accidents by pointing out hazards you might have missed.

Also, if you’re traveling with kids, having an extra adult or teen in the car who can attend to the little ones’ needs can be a true lifesaver.

Finally, if you have teenagers in your household, teach them about the dangers of passenger distractions, so that they’re better prepared when they hit the road with friends. You can teach them how to both drive safely and be a conscientious passenger.