FRIDAY, June 22, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- While children riding in cars driven by teens are twice as likely to be injured in a crash as children in cars driven by adults, the risk of injury is 40 percent lower if the teen driver happens to be an older brother or sister, a new study finds.
"We found that children are safer and more likely to be restrained when riding with a teenaged sibling than with a non-related teenager, but they're safest when they're riding with a driver older than 25," researcher Dr. Flaura Winston, scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.
Her team believes the findings may offer insights for parents and for lawmakers setting standards for graduated licensing laws for young drivers.
In many states, there are restrictions on the number of passengers young drivers can have in the car without adult supervision. However, a number of states allow exemptions for family members.
"Busy parents have come to rely on their older children helping with shuttling siblings to various commitments," Winston noted.
Instead of placing restrictions on sibling passengers, graduated licensing programs should provide appropriate education and penalties, such as delaying full driving privileges if a teen does not ensure that all child passengers are properly restrained, Winston said.
When trying to decide whether to allow 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," Winston said.
The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, also found that teen drivers had a much higher risk of being involved in a crash if they had no specific destination while they were behind the wheel.
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about safe driving for teens.