How can I Keep My Teen Driver Safe Behind the Wheel?

Teen Driver Safe Behind the Wheel

Car wrecks are the leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, in 2018, close to 2,500 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents, and an additional 285,000 suffered serious personal injury that required emergency medical treatment. Many of these tragic accidents could have been prevented if the teen driver had not been engaging in risky driving behavior such as distracted driving, speeding, or driving aggressively. Unfortunately, teens’ inexperience behind the wheel, combined with a tendency to take unnecessary risks when driving, can have devastating results. By making safety a priority and avoiding unsafe driving behavior such as distracted driving and speeding, teen drivers can avoid serious accidents.

Parents of a teen driver involved in an accident should reach out to an experienced car wreck lawyer for assistance.

How Common are Car Wrecks Involving Teen Drivers?

Teen drivers are at an increased risk of being in a car wreck for a number of reasons. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in addition to their lack of experience behind the wheel, teens lack maturity and driving skills. The combination of these, and other factors such as distracted driving and aggressive driving, is what makes teen drivers susceptible to serious car accidents. The NHTSA and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) compiled the following disturbing statistics about car accidents involving teen drivers:

  • Inexperienced teen drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car wreck than adult drivers.
  • Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are at the greatest risk of getting into a car wreck compared with any other age group.
  • Roughly 75 percent of car wrecks involving teen drivers are the result of certain critical errors, including speeding, failing to pay attention to unexpected hazards in the roadway, and being distracted by someone or something inside the vehicle or in the vicinity of the vehicle.
  • Rear-end accidents, left turn accidents, and driving off the road are the most common types of car wrecks involving teen drivers.
  • Using a cell phone to make a call increases the risk of a car wreck by six times, and sending a text increases the accident risk by 23 times.
  • Teenagers are much more likely to engage in unsafe driving behavior when they are driving with several passengers in the car. In fact, the more passengers there are in the vehicle, the greater the risk that the teen driver will cause a serious accident.
  • Research shows that teen drivers are more likely to speed as they become more comfortable behind the wheel. Speeding is responsible for over 30 percent of fatal car wrecks involving teen drivers each year.

What is a Graduated Driver’s License?

In an effort to reduce the number of teen-related car accidents in the United States, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a graduated driver’s license system (GDL). According to the NHTSA, the GDL program can reduce teen car accidents by up to 50 percent.  As the teen driver gains experience behind the wheel, they will be able to proceed to the next phase of the licensing phase. The first stage involves obtaining a learner’s permit, which the driver may get at the age of 16 or older. After having a permit for the required amount of time, and the teen driver passes their driver’s test, they will get an intermediate stage or provisional license. There are a number of restrictions that teen drivers must follow during this phase. For example, teens may not drive between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., and there is a limit to the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle when a newly licensed teen is driving.

The third phase involves getting a full-privilege state driver’s license. The mandatory holding period of the provisional driver’s license is one year, and teen drivers in the United States get their provisional license at age 16 or 17, so the minimum age for full licensure is 18. Some GDL laws also prohibit teens from using their cell phone when they are driving in an effort to prevent devastating distracted driving accidents.

What are the Driver’s License Restrictions in Maryland?

Maryland also enforces a GDL program in an effort to help young drivers gain experience and confidence behind the wheel. The following highlights the GDL laws that are enforced in Maryland:

  • Teen drivers may obtain a learner’s permit at age 15 years, nine months.
  • Teen drivers must have a learner’s permit for a minimum of nine months.
  • Teen drivers may obtain a provisional driver’s license at the age of 16 years and six months.
  • During the intermediate license stage, teen drivers may not drive between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m.
  • For the first five months of the intermediate license phase, the teen driver may not have any passengers under the age of 18 in the vehicle while he or she is driving.

How can Parents Help Their Teen Drivers Avoid a Car Wreck?

One of the first and most important things parents can do to help their teen drivers stay safe behind the wheel is to set a good example of what safe, responsible driving looks like. That means exhibiting the behavior that parents want their children to do, from always wearing a seat belt to putting the cell phone away. The following are a range of important safety tips that parents should teach their teen drivers:

  • Discuss the importance of safety when driving. Parents should take every opportunity to remind teen drivers about the rules of the road; the importance of making eye contact with pedestrians; and using extreme caution when entering and exiting driveways, parking lots, and alleys. Parents should be specific and make sure that the teen is listening and engaged in the conversation.
  • Set a good example. Actions speak louder than words, and children are always watching and listening to what their parents do. Therefore, it is crucial that parents make safety a priority every time their children are in the car. Then means always wearing a seat belt, driving within the speed limit, avoiding texting or talking on the phone, and keeping their attention on the road ahead. Teen drivers are more likely to develop safe driving habits if their parents exhibit that same type of behavior.
  • Make sure teen drivers get plenty of supervised driving experience. Parents are urged to take the necessary steps to ensure that their teen driver gets at least 50 hours of behind the wheel experience under a range of driving conditions. Teen drivers should learn how to drive during heavy traffic, navigate busy traffic circles, and drive on busy highways. The more experience a teen driver has in a range of different driving situations, the more prepared they will be when there is no longer an experienced driver accompanying them in the car.
  • Take proactive steps to prevent distracted driving. The most common cause of distracted driving accidents among teen drivers is using cell phones to read or send texts, or to talk on the phone. It is highly recommended that parents teach teen drivers to put their phones in the glove compartment, in their purse, or in the back seat where it is out of sight. Teen drivers should be encouraged to use the Do Not Disturb feature that is available on most phones. This will silence any text or phone call notifications until the person is no longer driving.
  • Use extra caution when driving in residential areas. All motorists should be careful when driving in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Teen drivers should be particularly careful, since small children may run across the street unexpectedly, and there are more people out walking, running, or riding their bikes in these areas.
  • Encourage teen drivers to sign a Parent-Teen Driving Contract. This can be an effective tool at holding both parents and teen drivers accountable for always making safety a priority. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends including the following important statements in a driving contract, and that both parents and child sign the document:
    – I promise to obey the rules of the road at all times.
    – I promise to keep my attention focused on the road.
    – I promise that I will never drink and drive.
    – I promise that I will be a safe, responsible driver.
    – I understand that this contract may be modified as I gain more experience and demonstrate that I am a safe, responsible driver.
    – I understand that there will be penalties for violating this contract, including the removal of all driving privileges.

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Teen-Related Car Accidents

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving an inexperienced teen driver, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Teens who have obtained a driver’s license have a responsibility to obey the rules of the road and exhibit safe driving behavior at all times. A failure to do this can result in a serious car wreck. We will assist you with every phase of the claims process, ensure that your legal rights are protected, and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.