Teen Drivers' Perceptions of Their Peer Passengers Qualitative Study

Johnathon P. Ehsani, Denise L. Haynie, Christina Luthers, Jessamyn Perlus, Eli Gerber, Marie Claude Ouimet, Sheila G. Klauer, Bruce Simons-Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The presence of peer passengers increases the risk of fatal crashes among teenage drivers. Distraction and social influence are the two main factors associated with this increased risk. Teen drivers' perceptions of their peer passengers with regard to distraction and social influence could help inform the understanding of the conditions under which peer passengers increase crash risk or promote safer driving. The purpose of this study was to examine such perceptions. A convenience sample of male and female drivers participated in a semistructured interview process that included questions about their perceptions of the effects of peer passengers on driving. The analysis of the interviews was guided by a grounded theory approach. Teenage drivers were found to be aware of the risk that peer passengers posed. Some described having passengers in the vehicle as distracting and recognized that the level of distraction increased with the number of passengers. Drivers who felt responsible for the safety of their peer passengers described strategies that they used to control the in-vehicle environment. Drivers described driving with passengers as a performance and articulated direct and indirect sources of pressure, gender norms, and the unspoken expectations of their passengers as influences on their driving behavior. The influence of passengers is situation specific and dependent on who the passengers are; passenger influence may be either protective or harmful, according to the circumstances. Some passengers exert direct influence, but often their influence appears more indirect and subtle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-26
Number of pages5
JournalTransportation Research Record
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

Cite this