Courtney Sargent, Deseret News
October 2008, Addy Marsh, 17, (right) writes a text while her friends Virginia Belt, 15, (left) and Aimee Morris, 15, (middle) yell distractions at her as she drives through an obstacle course during the Action Against Distraction Driver Challenge at Kearns High School in Salt Lake City. Teenage drivers that have peer passengers increase the risk of car crashes.

For many teens, having keys in hand to any car — whether beat up or brand new — means freedom. However, teenagers should be especially careful since they are involved in 20 percent of all fatal crashes nationwide, even though they only represent 7 percent of drivers, according to Keys2Drive, a AAA-sponsored website.

Keys2Drive links many teen accidents with teenagers having difficulty in speed management, distractions, visual search habits and space management. And AAA says the amount of fatal car crashes involving teens increases depending on the presence of peer passengers.

"…Data analysis on fatal crashes that occurred nationwide from 2005 and 2010 shows that 9,578 drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes, and that 3,994 of these crashes included at least one teen passenger," according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety data, reported by a AAA Utah press release.

Data also shows that weekends and nights increases the risk of fatal accidents for teens as there are more distractions and their sight is impaired, according to Keys2Drive.

When more teens are in the car, new drivers are inherently more likely to be driving at night and are more likely to be driving faster, according to AAA Utah's press release.

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"The prevalence of speeding increased from 30 percent to 44 percent and 48 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively," said the press release.

Each year, about 5,000 teens die in a car crash, which is more than suicide-, homicide-, alcohol- and drug-related deaths combined.

"With motor-vehicle crashes ranking as the leading cause of death for teens, AAA Utah is urging parents to be more involved with their teen drivers and calling for stronger graduated driver's licensing programs," according to the press release.

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