Newly-minted drivers have the highest risk of involvement in a deadly car accident, according to a new study released by AAA. Drivers under 18 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a fatal crash, and back-to-school can be especially precarious. School zones present a particular challenge, given the influx of novice drivers and congestion in and around these areas.
Teens can be held legally liable for damages in crashes they cause, though those damages are typically paid by their parents' auto insurer, on whose plan they are covered. Passengers of a negligent teen driver may recover bodily injury damages from the driver's insurer, and potentially also from their own parents' uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Legal liability may also be imposed on the municipality or county responsible for maintaining the school zone, if it's determined poor maintenance contributed to the crash. Exploring every legal possibility is important following a serious collision.
The Reasons Teen Drivers Face Greater Danger
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 an average of six teenagers died every day from motor vehicle injuries. The New York Times explored the dangers of teen driving further, and found that passengers are a critical problem for teen drivers. The New York Times article reported that adding one non-family passenger to a teen's vehicle increased the odds of having an accident by forty-four percent. Interestingly, distraction was found to be highest when male teen drivers had male teen passengers in the car. Male drivers with female teen passengers drove more safely.
Distracted driving is another serious problem which has spread rapidly across America with the prevalence of smartphones. Teens are not immune to this trend: Forbes reports on a Governors Highway Safety Association study which found teens to be the largest age group of drivers who were distracted at the time of an accident. While distraction is dangerous for any driver, is is particularly problematic for young, inexperienced drivers who are not always prepared to deal with obstacles in the road.
The Graduated Driver's License Program in Texas
Like many states, Texas has introduced a graduated driver's licensing system. This occurs in three phases. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety:
- A learner's license is required for any driver under the age of eighteen. Learner's license holders must hold a valid license for six months prior to applying for a provisional license.
- A provisional license restricts the driving privileges of those drivers under the age of eighteen. It can only be obtained by drivers who are at least sixteen years old, have held a learner's license for six months, taken a driver's education course, and passed a road test. Provisional license holders may not operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger in the vehicle under the age of twenty-one who is not a family member. They are also prohibited from operating a vehicle between midnight and five a.m. (except in limited circumstances).
- A regular driver's license without restrictions.
How To Keep Your Teen Driver Safe on the Road
- Establish and enforce family rules for distracted driving. Smartphones should only be used in the event of an emergency while driving. Texts can wait, and there is never a reason to access Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or other such apps while driving.
- Teens should also have clear rules for passengers in the vehicle. If parents allow their teen driver to have passengers in the vehicle, they must not be allowed to divert the driver's attention from the road. Music and other noise levels should be kept to a minimum.
- Teach your child to be particularly cautious in and around their high school. High schools have high concentrations of young, inexperienced drivers. Teen drivers should be prepared to respond to erratic movements, pedestrians, heavy traffic, and other hazards they will face at their school.
If your teen has been injured in an accident, contact a Houston car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your child has legal rights which must be protected.