Some Risks That Teenage Drivers Face

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What Are the Top Risks Faced by Teen Drivers?

No matter how much experience they have, all motorists face risks when they get behind the wheel, but for teen drivers, those risks are often magnified. Despite making up only 5.1% of all licensed drivers in the United States, 15- to 20-year-olds accounted for 8.5% of drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2020. And while the number of serious car accidents involving teen drivers has gone down in recent years, they remain a leading cause of death and injury for teenagers.

This heightened risk is due in part to inexperience, but there are other factors that contribute to the dangers faced by teen drivers. Here are some of the top ones:.

Driving Under the Influence

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that roughly 22% of all fatal crashes involving teenage drivers are alcohol-related. And while drinking and driving is a problem for motorists of all ages, it’s especially dangerous for young people who are still developing their skills behind the wheel.

Underage drinking is illegal in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t stop many teens from doing it. If you’re a parent of a teenage driver, it’s important to have a conversation with them about the dangers of drinking and driving. Make sure they know that they can always call you for a ride if they’ve been drinking, no questions asked.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. The use of drugs, including prescription medication, illegal drugs, and even some over-the-counter medicines, can also make it hazardous to get behind the wheel. For example, cannabis can cause drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and impaired judgment while stimulants like cocaine can lead to reckless driving and increased crash risk.

If your teen is taking any kind of medication, make sure they know how it could affect their driving. Teens should also be aware of the signs of drug impairment and know not to get behind the wheel if they’re under the influence.

Distracted Driving

Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do. It’s been estimated that sending or reading a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Teens are particularly at risk for distracted driving because they’re more likely to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel. However, texting isn’t the only way that teens can get distracted. Eating, drinking, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, and even daydreaming can all take a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. And for inexperienced drivers, that can be dangerous.

Anytime your teen is behind the wheel, they should be focused on driving and nothing else. Our personal injury lawyers have seen the impacts of distracted driving time after time, and all it takes is a split second of distraction to cause an accident. Parents should set a good example by not distracted driving themselves and should talk to their teens about the dangers of driving while distracted.

Drowsy Driving

Many high schools have a daily start time as early as 7:00 a.m. That means students have to wake up early, often after getting just a few hours of sleep. And after a long day of classes, homework, and extracurricular activities, it’s common for teens to be exhausted by the time they get behind the wheel.

Drowsy driving can impair a driver’s ability to pay attention to the road, react to hazards, and make good decisions. In fact, research has shown that driving while sleep deprived is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

If your teen is tired, they should not get behind the wheel. While you can’t control their school schedule, you can talk to them about the importance of getting enough sleep and how drowsy driving can be dangerous. You can also remind them that if they’re too tired to drive, they can always call you for a ride.

Peer Passengers

When teenagers get their licenses, they often want to start driving their friends around. And while having passengers in the car can be fun, it can also be dangerous.

According to the NHTSA, teen drivers are more likely to be in a fatal car accident when they have teenage passengers in the car. The risk increases with each additional passenger.

There are a few reasons why peer passengers can be dangerous. For one, teen passengers can be distracting. They might talk to the driver, play music loudly, or goof around, all of which can take the driver’s attention away from the road. Passengers can also encourage risky behavior. If everyone in the car is egging the driver on to go faster or take chances, a teen driver who has underdeveloped risk assessment skills might do something they wouldn’t normally do.

As a parent, you can help keep your teen safe by setting rules about who they can and can’t give rides to. You should also make sure your teen is aware of the legal passenger limits for teen drivers. New Jersey prohibits 16- and 17-year-old drivers from carrying more than one passenger under 21 years of age who is not a family member. This rule is in place to help reduce the risk of accidents for inexperienced drivers.

Improper Seatbelt Use

Seatbelts are one of the most effective safety devices in cars but only if they’re used correctly. Wearing a seatbelt properly—low and snug across the hips—can reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a crash by up to 50%.

Even though seatbelts save lives, many teenagers don’t use them. In fact, seatbelt use is lowest among teens than any other age group. There are many likely reasons for this, including a false sense of invincibility, peer pressure, and simply forgetting to buckle up.

Encouraging your teen to wear a seatbelt correctly and every time they get in the car is one of the best things you can do to keep them safe. While it’s up to them to actually buckle up, you can set rules about always wearing a seatbelt and not riding with anyone who isn’t wearing one. Make sure they’re aware of the dangers of not buckling up, including being ejected from the vehicle in a crash.

Accidents Are Preventable

Although car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, they are also preventable. There are a number of cellphone apps that you can install on your teen’s phone that will prevent them from using their phone while driving. By being aware of the risks and talking to your teen about safe driving habits, you can help keep them safe on the road.

If your teen does get into a car accident, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. can help. With offices in New Brunswick, Somerville, and Freehold, our trusted legal team serves clients throughout New Jersey. Call us at (732) 247-3600 or contact us online today for a consultation to discuss your case.

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To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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