Teen drivers are new drivers. Driving is a skill that needs to be practiced like any other. However, even though experience is needed so that any novice driver can learn how to navigate under various traffic conditions, most teen accidents occur due to unnecessary risk taking or poor judgement.
Driver education programs were prevalent in many high schools in past decades, but these have not been proven to reduce the incidence of teen accidents and fatalities. Studies have shown that their effect has been negligible on safety. Instead, many states like Massachusetts have instituted graduated driver’s license programs (GDL) for drivers up to age 18. These programs restrict the time of day that teenagers can drive, requires an adult in the vehicle during the early stages of the teen driver’s permit for a certain number of hours, and limits the number of passengers. After age 18, the driver is on his or her own.
Although the rate of teen accidents has fallen substantially in the past few years, it remains the number one killer of teens. The accident rate for 16-17-year olds, the age when we usually begin to drive, is 3 times the rate as for drivers age 20 and older.
Not all hope is lost, however. As parents, we can offer substantial guidance to our teen drivers and help reduce the risk of an accident. As role models, we can do the following:
- Put our cell phones away and don’t bother to even look at it while driving, even for incoming calls. Teens are not allowed the use of a cell phone in any manner while driving in Massachusetts so show your son or daughter that any phone call can wait.
- Refrain from speeding. Speeding is a major factor in about one-third of all accidents. Speeding may or may not get you to your destination a few minutes earlier and is rarely necessary. On the freeway, point out how reckless drivers are endangering everyone around them.
- Remind them of traffic violation fines for speeding, signal light violations, and crosswalk violations and that they will responsible for paying them, or the car will be off-limits to them for a time.
- Refrain from road rage. No one likes being cut off or having another car edge in front of you, but getting angry, flipping off the driver, or driving recklessly to teach that motorist a lesson is dangerous and may invite retaliation from mentally unstable motorists. Keeping your cool is a great lesson to teach.
- Buckle up and be sober yourself. Massachusetts drivers are among the worst users of seat belts in the nation so set an example. And being sober while driving is a no-brainer.
One way of getting your teen the necessary experience is to gradually introduce him or her to different roads and traffic conditions. You may want to do this yourself initially to show your driver what he or she can expect. For instance, drive on the freeway during light and heavy traffic to demonstrate how to safely change lanes. Make sure your teen knows how to use the windshield wipers and defroster before taking them out during inclement weather. One overlooked area is parking lots. Many pedestrians are injured in parking lots from cars backing out of spaces. Have your teen practice backing out of a space while constantly looking for pedestrians.
You can also educate them as they drive by pointing out:
- No rolling stops at stop signs
- Coming to a full stop on a blinking red light
- Exercising caution when the car in front of you puts its brake lights on
- That taking your eyes off the road for any amount of time is dangerous
- Slow for pedestrians
- Look for merging traffic at certain intersections
- How to enter a freeway
- Drive defensively
- Give bicyclists at least 3-feet of space when passing
- Always signal when changing lanes or turning
Once your teen has full driving privileges, your responsibility should not end there. Crash rates are substantially higher during a novice driver’s initial three months of driving independently, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. To avoid this from happening, drive with your teen as much as possible before he or she obtains their full license.
Even when your teen turns 18 and still lives at home, remind him or her about certain commonsense steps to take:
- Never drive high or after drinking
- Never get in a car with a driver who is high or has been drinking
- Call a Lyft, Uber or taxi if high or drunk, or if too fatigued—let your teen know you will not be upset with them for having done so
- Speeding is a killer
- Have them call you if the car has a problem
- Remind them about the dangers of any cell phone use
- Set a time for them to be home
- Have them call you if there is a change in plans
Liability and Insurance in an Accident
Even though teens are minors, they are still responsible for exercising caution and ordinary care while driving. Most teens are covered by their parents’ auto policies so that if a teen motorist causes an accident, the parents’ policy will provide coverage.
It is always a sound idea to maintain uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. There are teen drivers, like adults, who drive uninsured or who maintain the minimum policy limits. In Massachusetts, the minimum is $20,000/$40,000, meaning that the most you could recover from an insured driver in an accident is $20,000. This amount will be sorely inadequate if you sustain serious injuries and are disabled from working for an extended period of time. Consult a teen accident lawyer for any injury accident involving a teenage driver.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
You will need an experienced teen accident lawyer from the law firm of Burns and Jain if you were injured by a teen driver. Our attorneys have handled the most complex cases and have obtained millions of dollars in compensation for our injured clients. Call us today at (617) 227-7423 to schedule a free consultation about your injury claim.