How Teen Passengers are Linked to Fatal Car Accidents in Colorado

distracted driving accident

Research has shown that teenage drivers transporting passengers younger than 21 are at an increased risk of a fatal car accident.

Many people associate distracted driving with teenagers. Cellphone use has largely been linked to the youngest drivers in Colorado and across the country. However, there is another threat facing teen drivers: teen passengers. Parents should be aware of the risk involved when a teen transports his or her friends.

Colorado laws

Colorado does have laws in place to restrict who may accompany a young driver. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, a teenager who has a driving permit must have an adult with a driver’s license in the front seat of vehicle.

Teenage drivers who have a license are not permitted to transport passengers younger than 21 in the first six months unless there is a licensed adult in the vehicle. For the following six months, a teen driver may only have one passenger younger than 21 in the car.

By the numbers

The laws are in place for a good reason: Research has shown that the more teenage passengers a young driver has in a vehicle, the greater the risk of an accident. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2,191 16- and 17-year-old drivers were killed between 2000 and 2010. Of those, almost 40 percent were transporting a passenger who was younger than 21.

The foundation conducted a study that examined the presence of a passenger and the passenger’s age with the incidence fatal car accidents during that 10-year-period. The study found the following to be true for 16- and 17-year-old drivers who were not carrying any other passengers:

  • One passenger younger than 21 increases the risk of the teen driver dying in a car accident by 44 percent.
  • Two passengers younger than 21 doubles that risk.
  • Three or more passengers younger than 21 quadruples the odds of the teenage driver dying in a car accident.

The foundation also found that, outside fatalities, the risk of a teenage driver simply getting into a crash followed a similar pattern.

What parents can do points out that parent-child communication is a key part of ensuring that teenagers employ safe driving practices. For example, talking to children before they ever get a driver’s license can help them understand the enormous responsibility of operating a vehicle.

Parents should also be models of responsible driving. Adults with teen passengers should never use a phone, eat or engage in other distractions while on the road.

When car accidents do happen, victims in Colorado are able to take legal action against the responsible party. Anyone with questions about the issue should consult with our experienced Denver car crash attorney.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.