Achieving the milestone of getting a driver’s license can be a proud moment for teenagers and their parents. However, pride is only one of the feelings that kick in for parents of newly licensed teenage drivers. There are also valid concerns for the safety of their children. Additionally, there may be questions involving parents’ liability for their teenage drivers’ car accidents.
Teenagers make up one group that is frequently involved in car accidents, with senior citizens ranking as another top group. According to data from the CDC, in 2019 alone, there were 2,400 car accident-related deaths in the 13- to 19-year-old age group. Over 250,000 teenagers were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained in that year. Currently, vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among 16-to 24-year-olds in Pennsylvania. Additionally, male teenage drivers have over two times the risk of death in a car crash than female drivers.
Teenage drivers are more vulnerable to car accidents for several reasons. The most common reasons are listed below.
The fact that teenage drivers do not have much actual road experience is a major factor in why they are more likely to be involved in car accidents. The risk of a car crash is especially high during the first few months after getting a driver’s license. This may not always be due to irresponsibility or lack of attention. Teenage driver accidents often happen simply because of a lack of experience. As new drivers, teenagers statistically underestimate or fail to recognize dangerous situations until it is too late.
They also have had less time to develop safe habits and are more likely to speed, leave too little space in-between cars in front of them, and not pass or change lanes with enough caution. There is also the idea that the average teenager has an “invincible” mentality. For all of these reasons, parents should help guide and supervise their teenagers when they are learning how to drive.
Teenagers have the highest number of distracted driving incidents compared to other age groups. Statistics reveal that distracted driving accounts for at least 58 percent of all teen-related driving accidents. Cellphones offer teenagers the biggest temptation for taking their eyes off the road. Texting, talking and using various apps on their cellphones are all driving distractions.
Even when a teenager is not using a cellphone while driving, there are plenty of other surrounding distractions, such as eating, looking in the mirror for grooming purposes, and interacting with friends in the back seat. When teenagers drive with teenage passengers, they are at greater risk of being involved in a car accident. This is particularly the case when they are driving without adult supervision. The risk of a car accident increases with each additional teenage or young adult passenger.
Nighttime and Weekend Driving
Car accidents occur more often at night and on weekends for all age groups, but especially for teenagers. Teenage drivers between 16 to 19 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal nighttime car crash than any other age group. In 2019, the CDC stated that approximately 40 percent of traffic-related deaths among teenagers happened in the overnight hours, and 52 percent of teenage deaths occurred on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a top cause of car accidents among all age groups. Regardless of the fact that teenagers are not legally allowed to drink, they may still get access to alcohol or drugs. A 2019 study revealed that approximately five percent of licensed teenage drivers drove after they had been drinking alcohol at least once during the 30 days before the survey.
Peer pressure is a common issue that teenagers have to deal with, and that includes the use of alcohol and drugs. This can lead to poor judgment and impairment when it comes to getting behind the wheel. Therefore, is it crucial that teenagers are made aware of the dangers and consequences of driving while under the influence.
Failure to Use Seat Belts
One of the best safety devices in vehicles is the seat belt. When used properly and consistently, it can significantly cut down the risk of serious injuries and death. However, teenagers statistically have the lowest seat belt use compared to other age groups. For example, a 2019 study showed that 43.1 percent of high school students in the United States did not regularly wear seat belts when riding as passengers in vehicles. Teenagers may disregard the need to wear seat belts for a variety of reasons, but they should be taught why it is not only important for their safety, but necessary under the law.
Liability in Teen-Related Car Accidents
The law regarding parents’ liability for the mistakes of their teenage drivers is not cut and dry. This is why you should hire an experienced lawyer when you have a complex legal issue like this one.
You will not automatically be held personally responsible for the actions of your teenager if they cause a car accident. Your automobile insurance policy should pay the claim and provide a defense for your teenager if necessary. However, if your teenager is in an accident, it is important you know what to do.
First of all, if your teenager gets in a car accident, you should not admit fault or apologize to anyone, even if you feel you were to blame for the accident. Stating or implying that the accident is your fault can negatively impact any future claim.
Next, you should immediately contact a lawyer because the legal process can be a difficult one to navigate on your own. For example, there are time limits on how long you have to bring a claim or lawsuit. You will also need support and guidance that will help you make the best decision for your child.
Generally, parents can be held responsible for car accidents caused by their teenagers if they allow them to drive when a reasonable person would know they should not be driving under certain circumstances. This is called negligent entrustment and covers the following situations:
- Parents know that their teenage driver has a medical condition that would make them an unsafe driver.
- There is a known history of accidents, distracted driving, and overall reckless behavior behind the wheel, and the parents let their teenager drive anyway.
- The parents knowingly supply their teenagers with alcoholic beverages and then allow them to drive.
The bottom line is if you have reason to know that your teenager is likely going to cause an accident, you should not entrust them with your vehicle. This does not mean that you should not allow your child to ever drive your vehicle just because the statistics show that teenagers are more likely to cause an accident. However, it is important to remember that your actions will be judged by what a reasonable person would do and if you took reasonable steps to ensure that your child safely operates your vehicle.
Even in cases when parents state that their teenager took the car out without their permission, they may be held responsible for the damage their teenager caused. Teenagers who pay for their own car insurance typically get minimal coverage. Their policies may not cover all expenses in cases of serious injuries, and it is possible for parents be sued for damages through their more comprehensive insurance.
Additional benefits to hiring an experienced lawyer to assist with this kind of legal matter include knowing that the accident site will be properly investigated, police and medical records examined, witnesses interviewed, and experts consulted. Having a lawyer take over your case will allow you and your teenager to focus on recovering from any physical and emotional trauma.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Can Help Your Teenager if They Were Involved in a Car Accident
If your teenager has been injured in an accident, do not hesitate to contact one of our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. To find out more, call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.