Driving With Passengers Boosts Accident Risk

FRIDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- While not as dangerous as talking on a cell phone while driving, passengers can cause distractions that boost crash risks, an Australian study finds.

And the more passengers in the car, the greater the likelihood of a crash, the researchers noted.

Study lead investigator Dr. Suzanne McEvoy, of the George Institute for International Health in Sydney, found that "carrying passengers in the car has a number of potentially distracting effects that also occur with mobile phone use while driving. Moreover, carrying passengers may have additional effects on the driver, including peer influence."

"Drivers with passengers were almost 60 percent more likely to have a motor vehicle crash resulting in hospital attendance, irrespective of their age group. The likelihood of a crash was more than doubled in the presence of two or more passengers," McEvoy said in a prepared statement.

Previous studies by researchers at the institute concluded that cell phone use while driving was associated with a fourfold increased risk of having a crash.

"In contrast to mobile phone use, passengers, with some exceptions, are generally aware of the road conditions and can moderate their conversation as needed," study co-author Mark Stevenson, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, said in a prepared statement.

"However, although the risk associated with carrying passengers is lower than that associated with mobile phone use, it is likely to have a higher contribution to accidents because of higher incidence of taking passengers as opposed to using a mobile phone while driving," Stevenson said.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about traffic safety.

SOURCE: Research Australia, news release, May 22, 2007

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