Being the parent of a teenage driver, or a teen who will soon learn to drive, can lead to a lot of worrying. No parent wants to get the call that their teen has been in an accident. People often wonder about the causes of teenage driving accidents, and what can be done to prevent them. Here are some common causes of accidents involving teenage drivers:
Unfortunately, teens are more likely to get in accidents in their first two years of driving. Those with less than two years of driving experience may have learned good practices in driver’s ed, but without frequent driving experience, they aren’t as well-prepared to recognize and react to dangerous situations. Accident risk is especially elevated during the first few months after earning a license because teenagers have the least driving experience at this time—and are simultaneously eager to get out there and start driving!
Of course, the only solution to inexperience is, well, spending time driving. However, Florida’s graduated driver’s licenses place some restrictions on new drivers to keep them out of the most dangerous situations while they gain experience. Teens with a learner’s permit are only allowed to drive during daylight for the first three months, and must always be accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older. They have to hold a learner’s license for 12 months, or until turning 18, before moving up to a driver’s license. At that point, they are not allowed to drive between 11 PM and 6 AM, unless traveling to or from work or accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older. At the age of 17, the restricted hours change to 1 AM to 5 AM. At 18, they may graduate to a full license if their record is free of traffic convictions.
In addition to state laws, some parents choose to place their own restrictions on their teen’s driving until they become more experienced. While this often leads to a lot of teenage annoyance and eye rolling, it may also help reduce the risk to new drivers.
When we think of distracted driving, we often picture a driver staring at their phone instead of the road. Distracted driving can mean any type of activity that takes your eyes and attention away from the road. This may include things like using a phone, eating and drinking, changing the radio station, and talking or arguing with passengers. Because driving requires cognitive, manual, and mental concentration, even minor distractions can lead to an accident—especially at nighttime, when visibility is already reduced.
Today, texting and driving is a major cause of auto accidents that involve teens. Text messaging is one big distraction, followed by social media use. Make sure to talk with your teen about the dangers of looking at their phone while driving, even if it’s “just a quick look.” Let them know distracted driving is never okay. You might tell them if you catch them texting and driving, you’ll be taking away their car keys for several weeks. Also let them know that while you appreciate them answering your calls promptly, you would rather wait a few minutes for them to call you back safely than have them get in an accident trying to answer your call or text.
It may also help to remind your teen that texting and driving is a primary offense in Florida, with fines starting at $30 for a first offense, and points being added to a driver’s license. Court costs may also apply.
Not Wearing Seat Belts
Seat belts significantly reduce the risk of fatal and serious car accident injuries, but teenagers sometimes ignore precautions about wearing a seat belt. In one survey from 2013, only about half of high school students said that they always wear a seat belt. Unfortunately, teenagers report the lowest rate of proper seat belt usage compared to other age groups.
You can help by setting a good example—always wear your own seat belt, even if you’re just going around the block. Make sure your teen knows there will be consequences for not wearing a seat belt, just as there are for texting and driving. You should also remind them that their passengers are required to wear seat belts too, if they are older and driving with someone else in the car. Florida law requires all front seat passengers to wear a seat belt, and drivers will be given a costly ticket if they fail to ensure this happens.
Other things teens should know: Your lap belt should go around your hips, and your shoulder belt across your chest. The seat belt is not as effective if it’s shoved behind you. Having an airbag in your car does not mean you can skip wearing your seat belt. Airbags are simply an additional safety feature to help your seat belt protect you.
Drinking and Driving
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances is dangerous at any age. Unfortunately, teenagers are sometimes more prone to risky behaviors, and almost a quarter of teens say they’d be willing to ride with a driver who had been drinking. The combination of inexperience and drunk driving is sadly a common cause of teen motor vehicle accidents.
Aside from reminding your teen about the legal drinking age of 21, it’s important to have an honest conversation about the dangers of driving while intoxicated, and how to prevent a tragedy. While the ideal outcome is your child never doing any underage drinking in the first place, a practical parent should plan for all eventualities. Tell your teen that you’d rather get a call to go pick them up from a party where they’ve been drinking, than get a call that they’ve been hurt or even killed in an accident because they drove drunk.
Statistics show that about 35 percent of teens who have car crashes are speeding at the time of the accident. Male teens are at particularly high risk of being involved in fatal reckless driving accidents. Aside from speeding, other examples of reckless driving include making illegal turns or lane changes, tailgating, and street racing.
Unfortunately, driving with friends or other teens in the car can increase a teen driver’s risk of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or other reckless driving practices due to peer pressure. Even teens who normally follow safe driving advice can sometimes do reckless things when they want to impress their friends. Aside from reminding your kids that unsafe driving is never okay, you may also want to restrict them from driving with friends for the first few months, so they can form good habits without possible bad influences getting in the way.
If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a traffic accident, you do have rights and you need an advocate who is ready to protect those rights. Speak with an injury attorney today from the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A.
We offer a free, no-obligation consultation. You can meet with an injury attorney now to discuss your case and see if you qualify for compensation. Call us now at 954-677-0155 or request more information online.