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Researchers: Teens at greater risk of fatal crash if driving with passengers

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Parents may want to think about how many people riding in the car with your young driver. According to Texas A&M researchers, the more teens in a vehicle with a teen driver, the more likely they will be involved in a fatal crash.

Last February, two San Antonio teens were killed on their way back to school from off-campus lunch. This is video the crash scene.

Police say the driver, who was also a teen, was racing at the time and made an illegal turn. He has since been indicted for the deaths.

Pressley Price, 16, went to school with them.

"One of them was a dear friend of mine. I played softball with her as well. So it really hit us hard," said Price.

The deaths fall in line with the latest statistics from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Researchers announced on Thursday that new drivers, aged 15-17 are eight times more likely be involved in fatal crashes than those aged 18-24 when they have more than two teen passengers in the car.

"This risky driving scenario when you teen passengers in the mix is a persistent one. We haven't solved it. And it's going to need more attention as we move forward," said Russell Henk, Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The statistic has risen gradually since 2002.

Possible explanations for the increase in the fatality rate are speed, distraction, inexperience and brain development.

Texas A&M researchers say the judgment and decision making part of the brain is not fully developed until 25, therefore, impairing a teen's ability to react behind the wheel.

"Very scary, all you can really do is really teach them at home the best you can and send them out the door," said parent Joe Perez.

It is against the law for teens under 18 to carry more than one person under 21 with them during the first year of licensed driving, but there are obviously violators.

To get teens involved in their safety, the program "Teens in the Driver Seat" was created. There are nearly 600 participating schools in the state.

Price's school signed up. She's now the co-chair of the advisory board.

"Sooner or later we have to change the way that we think about driving especially with teenagers. We need to start making it cool to be a safe driver," said Price.

Despite this increase in risk of fatal crashes among teens with multiple teen passengers, deaths overall have gone down 60 percent nationwide within the past 10 years.

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