In 2016, more than 3,500 teens were killed in car crashes nationwide, including in Missouri. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports about a quarter of the teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol.

This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week and Matt Nasworthy, a spokesperson for AAA, says car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens across the country.

Photo courtesy of MODOT

“As an age group, teen drivers get involved in more crashes than anyone else on the road,” Nasworthy says.

Although distracted driving is dangerous for anyone, regardless of age, Nasworthy says it appears to be a bigger problem for teens. The distraction doesn’t always involve a cell phone.

“We see that almost six out of 10 of their crashes are caused by distraction…and the number one distraction for teen drivers is having other teen passengers in the car,” Nasworthy says.

Teenage passengers are being encouraged to help the driver keep their focus on the road.

“What we want teens to do is to make sure they’re not getting involved in unnecessary conversations, not pulling the driver’s attention away from the road to look at something else, or text or answer a phone,” Nasworthy says.

A passenger can also assist the teen driver by handling the controls of the radio and the air conditioner or heat.

By Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis