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Teens Driving With Passengers In The Car May Be Safer

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Distracted driving. For young drivers, common sense and even laws say it’s safer not to have other teens in the car–but that may not be holding true in all cases of distracted driving.

Alex DeMetrick has details of a new study linking accidents to driving solo.

When that driver’s only companion is a cell phone, odds of an accident increase.

Maryland laws have increasingly given police more authority to crack down on the fastest growing cause of distracted driving.

“Trying to find someone texting or talking on their cell phone,” said an Anne Arundel County police officer.

Not that it’s all that hard. If we don’t do it, we certainly see it.

“Everybody does it. It’s unfortunate,” said one man.

According to a study by Bridgestone, in 2011, there were more than 3,300 deaths caused by distracted driving and 387,000 were injured. Cell phone use was a major reason. In a survey, 95 percent of teens questioned said they had used phones while driving, most often when they drove alone.

“Given how connected teens are to their cell phones, it seems realistic that would happen,” said Christine Delise, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson.

That’s led to a big push to educate young drivers, using simulators to show the danger.

“Just using the phone in my hand was difficult,” said one boy.

“When you’re looking down, there’s no way you can look at the road,” said a girl.

And according to a AAA Mid-Atlantic study, those dangers are being passed along when teens are passengers.

“Fifty percent of the crashes involving 16 to 17-year-old drivers did not have any passengers in the car with them. And then we looked at passengers with three or more with a teen driver, that dropped to 12 percent,” Delise said.

Not that horrible accidents with passengers don’t happen. Last week, four teens died on Kent Island. But the statistics say driving alone with a phone still poses the greatest risk.

“They don’t have the peer pressure of other teens in the car telling them to hang up and drive,” Delise said.

A new Maryland law goes into effect this October. Drivers under 18 caught using mobile devices will have their driver’s licenses suspended.

The survey that found 95 percent of teen drivers have used mobile devices showed they were used to read emails, websites, text messages and even view videos.

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