In early March, an 18-year-old driver was killed when his vehicle struck a pole at a high rate of speed, splitting the vehicle in half. The incident occurred at the intersection of McClellan Highway and Addison Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Another vehicle allegedly involved in the incident crashed into a guardrail, but the driver escaped serious injuries.
Police at the scene suspect that the drivers were drag racing, a particularly dangerous activity but one that has been popular in recent years among teen and young adult drivers. Drag racing on city streets or rural roads is not a new practice. If anyone has seen James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, an early 1950s iconic movie, he engages in a game of chicken with another driver where they drive towards one another before one driver “chickens out” and swerves at the last second to prevent a front-end collision.
In this case, it may be difficult to fully ascertain the cause of the accident since the drivers, their passengers, and those watching were certainly all acquainted with one another. One witness at the accident mentioned that the deceased teen driver loved to drag race before declining to say anything more. Drag racing is illegal and the decedent’s friends or acquaintances who were at the scene may be extremely reluctant to admit that the decedent and the surviving driver of the other vehicle were engaged in an unlawful activity.
Unless the cause of the accident can be determined that it was due to some other person’s negligence or wrongdoing, it is unlikely that the family of the decedent will recover anything in compensation for a wrongful death claim. Drag racing is a hazardous activity, and the property damage to the decedent’s vehicle and other circumstances are strong indicators of a high-speed collision. To prove otherwise, or that someone’s negligent conduct was a substantial factor in causing this tragedy, is the burden of the attorneys representing the decedent’s estate.
Teen Driving Statistics
It is no secret that teenage drivers are involved in more accidents than any other demographic. As a teen, you are 3 times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers 20-years of age and older. Males are especially at risk with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting that male teen drivers have twice the death rate than females of similar age from car-related accidents. Also, car accidents are the number one cause of death for those 15 to 19 years of age.
The reasons for the high death toll among teen drivers are many:
- Inexperience—driving can be a hazardous activity. Drivers with little experience are not used to critical driving situations, may not exercise proper judgment, or drive in a defensive manner.
- Impairment—people still drink and drive, but teens are often not used to drinking or dealing with the effects of even a small amount of alcohol, and are less likely to drive safely or to use proper judgment.
- Distracted driving—teens grew up with smartphones, texting, googling, and using social media apps on their phones, and have a high propensity to use their phones while driving.
- Speeding—teens will use cars to test their newly found freedom, and to fail to appreciate the risks of speeding, including drag racing. Around 30% of fatal accidents involving male teen drivers are attributed to speeding.
- Not using a seatbelt—teen drivers have the lowest percentage of seat belt use. In 2019, the CDC found that 43% of high school students failed to wear a seat belt when a passenger. You are 50% more likely to be injured in an accident if not restrained.
Public education programs and school-sponsored programs are vital in educating teens about the risks of driving and how to minimize them, though direct parental involvement and supervision is often the key to having a teen who understands and practices safe driving.
Teen Driving Laws in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there are different licensing steps and restrictions:
Learner’s permit–you must be 16-years old, and drive only under the supervision of an adult driver at least 21-years of age who has been licensed for at least one year until you pass the road test. Once you do, you may not drive between midnight and 5 am unless supervised by an adult. These permits are good for 2-years.
Junior license—you may qualify for a junior license after having a learner’s permit for 6-months, and not have had any moving violations or substance-related convictions. The teen must also have completed a certified driver education course and present a driving log of 40-hours of driving certified by a supervising parent or legal guardian, or 30-hours if the teen completed a driver development program. For the first 6-months, the driver may be unsupervised but may not have a passenger who is under the age of 18 and a non-family member unless accompanied by an adult driver who is 21 and been licensed for at least one-year. A parent or guardian must accompany the driver if driving between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
A junior license holder who is a firefighter or emergency medical technician is not restricted during these early morning hours.
Unrestricted license—at age 18, a junior license holder can obtain an unrestricted license.
Cellphone Use—no driver under the age of 18 can use a cellphone in any manner unless in an emergency situation or accident. A first offense results in a 60-day license suspension. A second violations results in a 180-day suspension followed by a 1-year suspension for a third offense.
Damages in Car Accident Claims
Damages in a motor vehicle accident injury case may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
In a fatal accident, damages are different, and may include:
- Medical expenses, if any, incurred before death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of income to dependent family members
- Loss of the decedents’ counsel, guidance, love, and advice
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or deemed to be willful, or exhibited reckless disregard for the rights and safety of the plaintiff or victim
Damages must be proved in any personal injury or wrongful death claim and are often vigorously challenged by insurers and defense lawyers. By retaining a highly experienced car accident attorney from the law office of Burns and Jain, you will have a lawyer who knows how to maximize damages to your benefit.
Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain
A skilled car accident attorney is always essential if you want the most compensation for your injury claim. By retaining a car accident attorney from the law firm of Burns and Jain, you can be assured that your claim will be vigorously pursued and that all avenues of compensation examined. Call us at (617) 286-3594 for a free, in-depth discussion of your car accident injury or wrongful death claim.