For parents who watch their new teen driver pull out of the driveway with a certain amount of trepidation, there may actually be plenty of reasons for your apprehensive feelings. As you are probably aware, most teens are convinced they are invincible—and possibly immortal, as well. A teenager with a driver’s license is tasting adult freedoms for the first time. At this age, it is unlikely the young driver understands just how fragile life really is—and how quickly a future (their own, or that of another person) can be changed forever. Consider the following statistics regarding teen drivers:
- For teenagers in the United States, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death;
- Six teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 died every day in 2013, as a result of motor vehicle crashes;
- Per mile driven, teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely than drivers over the age of 20 to be involved in a fatal automobile collision;
- Seventy-five percent of teenage driver car collisions are the result of “critical errors,” with the following three errors accounting for almost half of those collisions:
- Driving too fast for the road conditions, including weather, curves, excessive amounts of traffic, etc.;
- Neglecting to properly “scan” the road while driving in order to detect and respond to roadway hazards, and
- Succumbing to distractions, either inside the car or outside, in particular other teens in the car.
- There is a significant lack of driving skills among teenagers, particularly because many schools have discontinued Driver’s Education courses, and some states require no driver’s education (Driver’s Education is an optional step in the state of Alabama, with teen drivers able to substitute only 30 hours of driving with a licensed driver for a Driver’s Education course, although many Alabama high schools still offer Driver’s Ed as an elective);
- Distraction is a key factor in nearly 60 percent of automobile collisions among those drivers between the ages of 16 and 19. The most common types of distractions resulting in car collisions by teen drivers include:
- 15 percent of collisions related to distraction are the result of teens interacting with other teens inside the vehicle;
- Cell phone use is present in about 12 percent of teen car collisions related to distraction;
- Looking at or fiddling with something inside the vehicle (radio, GPS, etc.) is responsible for about 10 percent of teen car accident related to distraction;
- Looking at something outside the vehicle is responsible for about 9 percent of distraction-related teen collisions;
- Singing or “dancing” while driving accounts for about 8 percent of distraction-related teen car collisions;
- Grooming (combing or brushing hair, applying makeup and even changing clothing) while driving accounts for about 6 percent of teen car collisions which are related to distraction, and
- Reaching for something inside the car causes about 6 percent of distracted driving collisions among teenagers.
- Only 55 percent of teenage drivers report consistently using a seat belt when they drive or ride in a vehicle with friends;
- Teens are most likely to be involved in rear-end collisions, left-turn collisions, and running off the road, resulting in a single-car collision;
- While younger drivers account for only about 14 percent of the population, they represent 30 percent of the cost of motor vehicle injuries among males, and 28 percent among females;
- Tailgating is much more common among teenage drivers;
- Alcohol is a factor in 20-25 percent of fatal teenage car collisions, and
- Graduated drivers licensing programs have reduced fatal teenage crashes by 10-30 percent.
With their propensity to text and drive, take excessive risks, drive too fast and engage in other driving distractions, it is no surprise that your auto accident may have been caused by a teenage driver. Teens are also woefully unequipped to handle an emergency such as straightening out a skid or avoiding another driver. Further, many teens beg for—and get—a flashy sports car, rather than a safer vehicle, and are more likely to skip regular vehicle maintenance. The teen brain is simply not mature, meaning teen drivers are more impulsive, and have poorer levels of judgment than older drivers.
Reducing Teen Auto Accidents Through Graduated Licensing Programs
One potential way of reducing the number of teen driving accidents is to implement graduated driver licensing in all states. Graduated licensing allows teens to gain driving experience in a more controlled environment, while working on their full license. Studies have shown clear links between graduated licensing programs and lower collision rates. In the state of Alabama, all 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have had a license for six months or less may not:
- Have more than one non-family member in the car (unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or other licensed driver at least 21 years old who has consent of the parent);
- Operate a vehicle between midnight and 6:00 a.m. (unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or other licensed driver at least 21 years old who has consent of the parent), or
- Drive while using a handheld communication device.
Teens must also have 50 hours of supervised driving practice, with at least 16 of those hours driven after sunset in order to obtain their driver’s license. Any violation of these provisions can result in a license suspension or an extension of the restrictions. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of these graduated licensing restrictions. While the teen is probably well aware of the restrictions, it is hardly in their best interests to share them with their parents.
How a Martinson & Beason Attorney Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a car collision which was caused by the negligence of a teen driver, you likely have a personal injury claim which will allow you to seek compensation for your injuries and damages to your vehicle. You may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages for your time off from work, pain and suffering compensation, as well as compensation for emotional trauma, disability or disfigurement. The Huntsville, Alabama attorneys at Martinson & Beason are skilled negotiators as well as aggressive litigators, when warranted. Most teens are covered under their parents’ insurance policies, and we will handle all negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf, whether for injuries you sustained, or for the wrongful death of a loved one. Call Martinson & Beason today for skilled legal assistance and an evaluation of your automobile accident caused by a teen driver.