A great deal is expected of teenagers when they are finally licensed to get behind the wheel of a car without supervision. Student drivers are expected to obey the rules of the road and exercise good judgment while driving. They are supposed to understand the dangers inherent in driving a motor vehicle and not let their attention wander away from the business of driving. But teens do not always obey the rules or make the best decisions and they are continuously tempted by distractions. That is what makes teenage driving so dangerous for both themselves and others on the road. Accidents involving student drivers cause serious injuries and claim a significant number of lives each year. To reduce the incidence of teen crashes, all states now have licensing programs that delay granting full driving privileges. The personal injury attorneys at The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC, can help you understand your legal rights if you suffered injuries or losses as a result of an accident. Call 706-450-7071 for a free consultation.
The Problem of Teen Driving and Car Accidents
Unintended accidents are the number one cause of death for persons under the age of 19 in the United States according to the New England Journal of Medicine. For the last 20 years and until very recently, motor vehicle accidents resulted in far more student deaths than any other unintended cause.
Fatal teen driving accidents had been trending downward but began increasing again in 2019. The crash data published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) on drivers ages 15-20 shows the following statistics:
- Teens are more likely to die in car crashes than older licensed drivers.
- Teen driving accidents decreased by 20% between 2019 and 2020.
- Fatal teen driving accidents increased by 14% between 2019 and 2020.
- Teen males are 2x more likely to be in fatal driving accidents than teen females.
- 52% of teens killed in driving accidents were not wearing seatbelts.
Teen Driving Accidents in Georgia
Fatal teen driving accidents in Georgia exhibit the same trend as shown by the national statistics. Data provided by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that fatal accidents involving drivers ages 15-20 rose 22% to 206 in 2020 after a four-year low of 169 in 2019.
Common Risk Factors for Teenage Driving Accidents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable and identifies the leading risk factors for accidents involving student drivers.
- Lack of driving experience
- Driving with teen passengers
- Driving at night
- Distractions while driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired by alcohol and/or drugs
Distractions Lead to Crashes for Student Drivers
The percentage of drivers ages 15-20 who were involved in fatal accidents while distracted was higher than for any other age group in 2019. Teen drivers are particularly susceptible to distraction by mobile devices or other teen passengers in the vehicle.
Speed is a Contributing Factor in Teen Traffic Accidents
In 2019, 48% of fatal traffic accidents involving teens ages 15-20 listed vehicle speeds over the legal limit as a contributing factor.
Alcohol and Teen Driver Crashes and Collisions
Alcohol use by teens has a high correlation with accidents. Student drivers who have been drinking are even more likely to get into accidents than older drivers with the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Driving with any measurable BAC is illegal for anyone under 21 years in all states. Drinking and driving are legal for persons age 21 and older so long as the BAC remains below .08% (.05% in Utah). Of the teen drivers aged 15-20 who were involved in fatal car crashes in 2019, 24% had been drinking alcohol. More than half of the teens that had been drinking registered BACs at or above the legal limit.
Seatbelt Use and Teen Traffic Crash Severity
Not wearing a seatbelt may not contribute to a crash but seatbelt use can certainly affect the nature and extent of the injuries suffered as a result. According to the CDC, wearing a seatbelt reduces serious accident-related injuries and deaths by about 50%.
Despite the known benefits of wearing a seatbelt in the event of a crash, teenage drivers and passengers are the least likely to wear them. About half of the teens who die in car accidents each year are not wearing seatbelts.
What States are Doing to Help Reduce Student Driving Accidents
In an effort to help teens gain more driving experience while limiting some of the driving risk factors they often face as new drivers, all states have now implemented some form of graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. GDL is a three-phase licensing process minor drivers go through to obtain a full, unrestricted driver’s license.
The Georgia Department of Driver Services allows drivers to obtain a Learner’s Permit (CP) at 15. At 16, drivers may obtain a Provisional License (Class D) if they have had the CP for at least one year and one day without any suspensions. The Class D license restricts driving as follows:
- No driving between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Only family member passengers for the first 6 months
- Only one non-family passenger under 21 for the second 6 months
- After 1 year only 3 non-family passengers under 21
A Class C License with full driving privileges may be obtained at age 18.
Where to Get Help for Accidents Involving Student Drivers
Teen driving accidents can result in serious consequences for the driver as well as passengers and others on the road. Inexperience and the failure to exercise appropriate judgment increase the risk that student drivers will be involved in accidents. The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC, in Columbus, GA, recovers compensation for clients injured in car accidents involving teen drivers. To learn how The Mark Casto Law Firm, PC, can help after your accident call 706-450-7071.