Highways are not like the ski slopes, which range in difficulty from bunny slope to double diamond runs. There are no beginner roads just for teens at slower speeds, wider lanes, gentler turns, optimal lighting and zero obstacles. Even though they are beginners, teens must share the roadways with advanced drivers. So it’s not surprising that teen drivers have three times as many accidents as adults.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Six teens ages 16 to 19 die every day from motor vehicle injuries.
There has never been a more distracted generation of drivers than teen drivers on the road today. Brad Parker says he believes cell phones are to blame. “Teens today can’t live without their phones. They are constantly looking at them. When I was raising my daughters, I would hark continuously about texting and driving. I never texted them while they were driving, and if they called me while they were driving, they got an earful,” Brad says.
But cell phones are not just utilized for texting or calling. Multiple behaviors such as social media, messaging apps, GPS and music all have the potential to draw attention away from the road.
Even if the phone is out of reach, there are still many other distractions, especially in newer cars. Flashy displays on dashboards, Bluetooth technology and radio, and talking with other passengers are all contributing factors to teen driving accidents. While there are measures parents can take to help prevent accidents, it’s not always enough, especially if they are in a wreck due to someone else’s negligence.
Teens and the Law
The state of Texas also sets restrictions to protect teen drivers and the others around them. Teens must pass a written driver’s knowledge test, a sign recognition test and a vision test to receive a learner license when they are 15. In addition, the teen must be enrolled in driver education. With a learner license, teens may only drive with a licensed driver age 21 or older supervising and sitting in the front seat. Teens are required to practice driving for at least 30 hours, including 10 hours at night, with a parent or a legal guardian, before they’re allowed a provisional license.
When teens turn 16, they also must pass a behind-the-wheel driving test and complete a state-certified driver’s education course and possess the classroom and behind-the-wheel certificates. A teen with a provisional license is allowed to drive alone but must follow certain restrictions. They may transport no more than one person under age 21 who is not a family member. With a provisional license, they may drive between midnight and 5 a.m. only when accompanied by a licensed guardian unless driving to/from employment, driving to/from a school-authorized activity or for a medical emergency. Teens under age 18 may not use electronic communications devices while driving, and all passengers are required to wear seatbelts. Additionally, all teen drivers under age 21 are required to abide by Texas’ ZERO tolerance law, which prohibits any measurable amount of alcohol in their bloodstream.
Speed plays a huge role in teen driving accidents. Whether teen drivers are unnecessarily speeding to pass another vehicle, beat a traffic light or just trying to impress their friends, driving above the speed limit kills nearly as many teens as drunk driving each year. Brad says, “I’d advise parents to establish a basis of mutual agreement and understanding about driving. They should emphasize driving the speed limit. Driving is such a huge responsibility, and it’s just so dangerous. Life can change in a heartbeat…in the blink of an eye. I see it all the time.”
Parker Law Firm Case Study
Brad recently represented an Arlington High School tennis player who was a passenger when his friend drove off the road and into a tree. Because of the reckless behavior of the teenaged driver, Brad’s young client’s life was forever changed. One minute he was looking forward to his senior year of high school and the start of the tennis season, and the next, he was being airlifted to a hospital in Fort Worth. According to witnesses at the scene, the driver was speeding through the residential area when he lost control, crossing into oncoming traffic, over the curb and into the yard of a house on the street. While the driver only suffered a minor concussion, Brad’s client suffered injuries that would require years of recovery. By providing a detailed description of his injuries and his journey to recovery, Brad was able to present a strong case for compensation to the driver’s insurance company in the full amount of the insurance policy.
Teen Drivers - By the Numbers
- 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16 – 19 were killed, and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes last year.
- 6 teens ages 16 – 19 died every day due to motor vehicle crashes and hundreds more were injured.
- 6.5 percent of the U.S. population is made up of young people ages 15 - 19.
- $13.6 billion (8.4 percent) is the total cost of motor vehicle injuries caused by people ages 15 – 19.
- 42 percent of high school students admitted to texting or emailing while driving within the last 30 days.
- 37 percent reduction in brain activity occurs when using a cell phone while driving.
- 49 percent of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight.
- 53 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
- 41 percent of high school students reported they don’t always wear seat belts when riding as passengers.
- 32 percent of male drivers between the ages of 15 - 20 were speeding at the time of the crash.
- 15 percent of drivers aged 16 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of .08 percent or higher.
- 16.5 percent of high school students reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
- 5.5 percent reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period.
- 58 percent of drivers aged 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
*information according to most recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eight Danger Zones
Young drivers should be aware of the leading causes of teen crashes:
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with teen passengers
- Nighttime driving
- Not using seat belts
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving
Safest Vehicles for Teens
Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and good or acceptable ratings in the driver-side small overlap front test. If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they earn four or five stars overall or four or five stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All come with standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
- Volvo S80
- Toyota Avalon
- Infiniti M37
- Volkswagen Passat
- Nissan Altima
- Ford Fusion
- Volvo S60
- Subaru Legacy
- Hyundai Sonata
- Honda CR-V
- Volvo XC90
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Volvo XC60
- Kia Sorento
- Nissan Murano
- Ford Edge