Change in MA Law for Teens Leads to Fewer Crashes
Massachusetts law punishes junior drivers or those 16 and 17 year of age for speeding by suspending their licenses for a minimum of 30 days, then requiring a $500.00 reinstatement fee, two 4-hour education classes and a re-taking of the driver’s test. The more recent change in the law prohibits teen drivers from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without being accompanied by a licensed driver at least 20 years of age. First offenders risk losing their driver’s license for 60 days. A second offense is a 180 day suspension and a third is one year.
New Laws Have Changed Teen Driving Behavior
The nighttime restrictions came about after researchers, who were aware that teenagers need more sleep than adults, also found that they are more vulnerable to careless driving when sleep deprived. With these new nighttime restrictions in place, Massachusetts scientists found there was an overall reduction of 40% in fatal and catastrophic accidents involving junior drivers in the state. Night accidents dropped by 29%.
While there have been grumblings among parents and teens about the restrictions, there is no doubt that they have had a significant impact. Events or information concerning teens travels very quickly through texting, word of mouth, and social media. If someone loses their license for 90 days from a simple traffic violation, you can be sure other teens are made aware. In fact, the number of traffic tickets issued to teens has declined along with the fatality and injury rates.
Other Causes of Teen Driving Accidents
There are other factors leading to car accidents involving junior drivers. If you were hit by a teen driver, or were in a vehicle driven by a teen when injured, it was likely due to any of the following, all of which involve some kind of distraction:
• Distracted driving such as cell phone usage
• Interacting with other passengers
• Observing something outside the vehicle
• Singing or moving to music from the car radio or stereo
• Searching for something inside the vehicle
The American Automobile Association (AAA) undertook a study from event recorders placed in vehicles and found that teens took their eyes off the road for 4.1 seconds out of the 6 seconds before the crash occurred. At 60 miles per hour, a car will travel 88 feet per second or 352 feet, more than the length of a football field. It will also take you 480 feet to stop once you perceive a hazard such as a red light, a crossing pedestrian or a stopped vehicle.
Lack of driving experience is a major factor in accidents but this is no defense if you are hit by a teen driver and are injured. All motorists are held to the same standard of ordinary care when driving a motor vehicle, which means obeying the traffic laws and refraining from any activity that distracts motorists from doing anything but keeping their eyes on the road and looking for hazards.
While speeding and impaired driving are also major causes of car accidents, distracted driving has become an equal if not more substantial factor. If you have been injured in a distracted driving case, contact distracted driving lawyer Neil Burns, a Boston personal injury lawyer regarding your case.
Right to Damages in an Injury Case
If you were involved in a car accident caused by a teen driver who was engaged in any of the foregoing factors, you have a right to bring an injury claim and to collect damages from the auto liability insurance carrier. Your compensation depends on the nature and extent of your injuries, including your medical costs and wage losses, potential of future problems, permanency of your injuries and inability to engage in activities that you could perform before the accident.
It also depends on the amount of available coverage. The minimum in Massachusetts is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. If you have underinsured coverage (UIM) in your own policy that exceeds that, then you may recover more after deducting what you already received. For instance, if you recover the maximum $20,000 from the defendant driver and your UIM is $100,000, you could recover up to $80,000 more from your own carrier. If your UIM is only $20,000, though, you have no right to recover any additional compensation from your own policy. Your damages in a car accident may include:
• Past and future medical expenses
• Past and future income loss
• Lost earning capacity
• Diminished quality of life
• Pain and suffering
Contact Attorney Neil Burns
Distracted driving is a serious menace to motorists. While teen-involved accidents have dramatically reduced, they still occur. Call distracted driving lawyer Neil Burns if you or a loved one were hit by a teen driver in the Boston or surrounding communities to discuss your legal options and right to compensation.