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4 ways to keep your teen from driving distracted with friends in the car

Set ground rules before handing over the keys.

There are many forms of distracted driving for teens: texting, talking, taking selfies, live-streaming—the list goes on. But did you know that having friends in the car can also be a distraction for young drivers?

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that teens were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in reckless behavior when driving with one teenage peer. Some of the risky behavior they engaged in behind the wheel included speeding, racing, erratic maneuvering, not using turn signals, and refusing to yield. The risk of crashes is much higher with other young passengers.

Of course, teenagers will try to bend the rules thinking they won't suffer consequences for it, but this is why it's essential for parents to have open conversations with them. Talking with them will set ground rules and reinforce them before and after you hand over the keys.

Here are four ways to keep your teens safe when driving with their friends.

1. Familiarize yourself with state laws. It's helpful for parents to know state requirements for teen drivers. Every state has different rules and programs for their Graduated Driver's License (GDL). When it comes to the number of passengers in the car, 46 states and D.C. restrict the number of riders during the intermediate stage, when they receive their provisional driver's license, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

2. Establish your own rules. Some states, like Florida, Iowa, South and North Dakota, and Mississippi, don't have passenger laws for young drivers. If yours falls into the same category, then create rules and consequences. Talk openly with your teen and agree on the do's and don'ts of driving. Be very specific about your rules too, like who can ride in the car with them. Perhaps you only allow friends you've met and know.

3. Wait to buy your teen a car. A study by GHSA showed that teens are more likely to speed in a vehicle of their own versus a family car. The same could apply to other risky behaviors like driving with multiple people. If your teen is using a family car, remind them that severe consequences will follow if they break any rules or damage the family vehicle.

4. Hold off on allowing other passengers. Teen drivers have a lot to adjust to when they get their provisional. Since they are inexperienced, not allowing any passengers within the first couple of months might be an excellent place to start. This will give them time to familiarize themselves with the roads, traffic flow, inclement weather, and the overall driving experience. You can then ease off this rule as you and your teen become more comfortable.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to keeping our viewers accident-free, which is why we initiated the Drive Safe campaign. Steer clear of danger with our monthly tips.