Study: Its Safer if Its Big Brother on the Wheels

By: Iver Penn

Are you one of those parents who can't help but worry about your teens driving your car to school even if you have already taught them everything you knew about safe driving, including making sure that the is working?

A study released this week from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm(R) reveals that while children driven by teens are twice as likely to suffer crash injury as those driven by adults, their risk is 40 percent lower if the teenaged driver is their older brother or sister.

Published this week in the journal Injury Prevention, the research provides valuable insights for parents, as well as for state lawmakers involved in setting standards for graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws for young drivers.

The ongoing research alliance between CHOP and State Farm have proven in an earlier study that young children riding with newly licensed teenagers are at a much higher risk for injury in a crash than they are with adult drivers. This and other studies have urged lawmakers in many states to impose restrictions on the number of passengers young drivers are allowed to carry without adult supervision. Many states however, allow exceptions for family members.

Until now, the injury risk to sibling versus non-sibling passengers has not been explored.

The study, conducted as part of the Partners for Child Passenger Safety project, included accident and injury data on 16,233 children below age 16, who were riding with 15- through 19-year-old drivers in 16 states and Washington, D.C. These crashes were reported to State Farm from December 2000 through December 2005.

The researchers also warn parents to make sure there is a specific destination involved with the trip - as crash risk increases dramatically among teen drivers when there is no predetermined destination.

Dr. Winston offers this advice to parents who are deciding whether to allow their teens to drive younger brothers and sisters: "Parents should pay attention to their children's risk-taking tendencies before allowing them to ride together without an adult. In some cases, siblings can have a negative influence on one another's risk-taking behaviors that can be stronger than parental or peer influence."

According to Dr. Winston, "Busy parents have come to rely on their older children helping with shuttling siblings to various commitments. By allowing family member exceptions, passenger restrictions may be readily accepted by both parents and policymakers." Researchers say this may be an important first step for states, which currently have no passenger restrictions for young drivers.

Rather than restrict sibling passengers, Dr. Winston recommends GDL programs provide appropriate education and disincentives, such as postponement of full-driving privileges if all child passengers are not properly restrained.

For the latest research and information for parents about teen driving, visit For more information about child passenger safety, visit

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