Motor vehicle accidents remains a leading cause of death among teens in El Paso and throughout the Lone Star State, and there are certain risk factors which elevate the potential for a deadly crash to occur.
One recent accident in El Paso illustrated several of the biggest risks on the road faced by young people. KVIA reported the accident had occurred in May of 2015 and the driver faced criminal charges.
The driver pleaded guilty in April of this year to two counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault. The guilt pleas were entered in connection with two deaths he allegedly caused when he crashed his car last year. Two of the passengers in the car with him died, and one was severely burned.
Teen Car Accident Risks: Drunk Driving & Driving With Passengers
The tragic accident occurred when the driver, who is now 19, had three passengers in the car with him. He lost control of the vehicle and his car struck a guardrail before jumping a drainage canal and rolling over. The vehicle subsequently started on fire.
The driver and another friend were able to escape, but a 17-year-old passenger and an 18-year-old passenger in the car at the time both died at the crash scene.
Alcohol was the primary cause of this accident, but the fact the young driver also had teen passengers in the car with him was also a risk factor as well. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published a report recently indicating that having two teenage passengers in the car doubles the crash risk, and having three or more (as was the case in this crash) means there is quadruple the risk of a teen collision occurring.
Texas tries to prevent younger teens from driving with passengers in the car. There is a graduated licensing process in Texas, and teens don't get their full license until they have reached the age of 18. While on a restricted license, teenager drivers are supposed to have no more than one passenger in the car with them who is under aged 21. This offense is a secondary enforcement offense, which means police can't pull over a teen just for having too many passengers, but a teen can be cited for having too many passengers if he is pulled over for something else.
This law may not go far enough. As the recent accident showed, even an 18 year old can get into trouble with having multiple passengers in the car. While restricting 18-year-olds from driving with friends might be a challenge, it would likely make sense to switch the existing law to be a primary enforcement law so young people could be pulled over just for driving with too many peers.