(RNN) - We all know texting poses a significant danger for teenagers behind the wheel. Now, a recent study shows that for teen drivers, each additional passenger under age 21 significantly raises the risk of death in a car accident.
Recent numbers assembled by AAA Foundation for Public Safety show that the likelihood of a crash increases 44 percent when there is just one passenger under age 21. The risk doubles when carrying two passengers, and quadruples when the teen is carrying three or more passengers under 21, according to the report.
"We know that carrying young passengers is a huge risk, but it's also a preventable one," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among teens, defined as people between 16 and 20 years old.
Risks were significantly reduced when there was a passenger over 35 years old in the car.
"These findings should send a clear message to families that parents can make their teens safer immediately by refusing to allow them to get in the car with other young people, whether they're behind the wheel or in the passenger seat," Kissinger said.
The research comes just in time for National Youth Traffic Safety Month, which is celebrated with events across the country each May. The awareness campaign comes just before the onset of summer.
"Summer is the deadliest time of year on the roads for teens," Sandy Spavone, executive director of the National Organization for Youth Safety said.
Each year more than 5,000 teens are killed in accidents. In 2006, a teen died once an hour during the weekends and once every two hours on weekdays, according to the NHTSA.
Over summer, the number of teen driving deaths shoots from an average of 363 per month to 422 per month.
A 2006 study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that July and August were the deadliest months for 16- and 17-year-old drivers because "summer vacation for teens often means unstructured schedules, less guidance from mom and dad and more exposure to crashes," said Susan Pikrallidas, then vice president of public affairs for AAA.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board held a Youth Open House and Transportation Education Day as a kick off to National Youth Traffic Safety Month.
"Teen driver safety, an issue area on our most wanted list, is one of the agency's highest safety advocacy priorities," NTSB Board Member Robert L. Sumwalt said.
The month, which was officially designated as National Youth Safety Month today, will include rallies and educational events across the nation.
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