Car accidents are the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Along with over 2,400 teenagers who died and over 255,000 who ended up in the emergency room after accidents in 2019, everyone else on the road is also in danger of being hurt by a teen driver.
If you have a teen driver, you can do your part to keep them safe by making sure they're educated on the risk factors that can lead to accidents. Here are the most common causes of crashes involving teens.
1. Less Experience Than Other Drivers
A lot of knowing what to do when you're behind the wheel is using prior experience to judge other drivers' actions. Teen drivers simply can't spot dangerous situations as easily as those with more experience. They also don't have any practice making decisions while behind the wheel. This makes them more likely to make the wrong decision, which can lead to a serious accident.
2. Driving on Nights and Weekends
Cumulatively, night and weekend driving accounts for over 90% of fatal crashes that involved teens. For the sake of these statistics, nighttime driving was considered to be between 9 PM and 6 AM; weekends included Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. In response to these statistics, multiple states have implemented graduated driver's license programs that prevent teens from driving during nighttime hours.
Night driving is harder for everyone, including those who do it every day. There's less visibility, especially in adverse weather conditions. Fatigue is also a factor in nighttime driving accidents; being tired increases a driver's reaction time and makes their judgment worse. It also typically makes it hard for the driver to realize they are too tired to drive. When paired with teens' general inexperience, these complications are even more dangerous.
While it's not as clear why weekends are more common, data compiled by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows all drivers, not just teens, are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes on the three “weekend” days. Teens may need to use extra caution when driving on weekends so that they have time to react to other drivers' mistakes or carelessness and, thus, avoid a wreck.
3. Distracted Driving
Emailing or texting while driving is always dangerous, and teens are the most likely to engage in these behaviors. However, cell phone use is not the only type of distraction. Driving takes concentration, and when there are other teen passengers in the car, the chance of a crash increases. Factors like changing music or fiddling with a navigation system can also be enough of a distraction to cause a wreck.
Anything that takes a driver's eyes and mind off the road, or their hands off the wheel, makes an accident more likely. When a driver's mind is elsewhere, they simply do not process the things they are seeing. There's even a name for this: inattention blindness.
Due to their inexperience, teens are likely to need more time to react to a roadway hazard. Anything that interferes with them noticing potential dangers may mean they will not have enough time to react.
4. Speeding (Or Driving Faster Than Is Appropriate)
Speeding is a common cause of crashes among all demographics, not just teen drivers. It decreases the amount of time a driver has to react to any change in conditions while, at the same time, increasing their stopping distance. Even an experienced driver must go the speed limit to stay safe.
Teens tend to lack an understanding of how speeding affects driving. They often leave a shorter following distance than older drivers, thereby decreasing their reaction time even more. Teens are also less likely to know how their cars handle inclement weather. This may result in them traveling faster than what is safe, even if they're technically under the speed limit.
5. Alcohol Use
Just because teens aren't supposed to drink doesn't mean none of them do. Drinking and driving is unfortunately far too common among teens. One survey found that, over a period of 30 days, 1 in 6 teens had gotten into a car with a driver who had consumed alcohol. Five percent, or one in 20, admitted to being one of those drivers.
Alcohol use is especially dangerous for young drivers. Drunk (or buzzed) teen drivers are more likely to cause a crash than older drivers with the same BAC. Even if they are below the legal limit for adults, .08%, their crash risk increases. It can be hard to talk about drunk driving with teens because most do not tell their parents when they are illegally using substances. Still, having the conversation is worth it.
Staying Safe on the Roads
Just because a teen is involved in a crash doesn't mean they were responsible for it. However, proving their innocence can be difficult because they are statistically more likely to be at fault. Our lawyers at Karns & Kerrison represent any driver who was injured by another's negligence. We know how much injuries to teen drivers can affect their prospects in school and beyond. And as for fatalities, they are tragic for everyone involved.
One thing you can do today is talk to your teen about safe driving. You can also lead by example; for instance, giving them “custody” of your phone while you're behind the wheel or putting them in charge of entering your destination into the navigation system. No parent wants to hear their child has been seriously injured. By teaching your child how to prevent accidents, you can help keep them safe.
Call Karns & Kerrison today at (888) 281-3100 for a free consultation with one of our Rhode Island accident lawyers. If you or your child was injured by someone else's careless or reckless driving, we will fight to secure your rightful compensation.