When teen drivers have multiple passengers riding in their vehicle, their likelihood of getting in a serious car crash rises. A recent study by AAA discovered a correlation between the presence of passengers and the chances of an auto accident.

Earlier this year, a deadly example of this correlation occurred in Rocky Mount, Virginia. A January car crash involved four teens that had just left Franklin County High School. At the time that the driver lost control of the car, they were all riding together in the same vehicle

One of the teens in the car died as a result and the other three teens, including the driver, received injuries from the multi-vehicle accident. Virginia State Police later charged the driver with reckless driving and involuntary manslaughter. Multiple civil lawsuits also arose a few weeks after the incident.

The father of one of the injured victims filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the driver. The estate of the deceased victim also filed a lawsuit against the teen that was behind the wheel that day, for a slightly higher $2.75 million.

The accident demonstrates the findings of the AAA study. Without an adult in the car, the presence of just one young passenger can increase the probability of an accident by 44% when a 16 or 17-year-old is behind the wheel.

With two passengers, a teen driver’s chance of a car crash more than doubles. With three or more passengers, as in the January accident, the probability of an accident quadruples.

Laws in Virginia reflect the study’s findings. When an adult is not present in the vehicle, Virginia drivers under the age of 18 can legally carry just one teenage passenger.

Source: WSET, “Study links teen passengers to teen driving deaths,” David Tate, May 8, 2012