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Reducing the Incidence of Fatal Teenage Wrecks


Teenage drivers face a considerable risk of injury or death every time they get behind the wheel. Nationwide, 2,270 teenagers were killed in automobile Wrecks in 2014, while 221,313 were treated in emergency rooms. On average, 6 teenagers per day die as the result of a motor vehicle Wreck.

From 2004 to 2016, 13% of all automobile Wrecks in Tennessee involved drivers under the age of 20. During this time period, more than 51,000 Tennessee teenagers were involved in auto Wrecks throughout the state.

Leading Causes of Teenage Automobile Wrecks

Inexperience - With few exceptions, teenage drivers have two years or less driving experience. This lack of experience means that they do not have the skill or expertise to respond to various events and conditions on the road.

Distracted Driving -In 2013, the National Highway Transportation Association estimated that 330 people were killed in Wrecks involving distracted teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. Common distractions include sending text messages, eating fast food, talking with passengers, fumbling with radio dials, etc.

Research conducted by AAA indicates that as many as 94% of teenage drivers have texted while driving. AAA further estimated that up to 21% of teenage drivers killed in automobile Wrecks were distracted by a text at the time of the Wreck. In Tennessee, teenage drivers with a learners' permit or intermediate driver's license are prohibited from using both handheld and hands-free cell phones while driving.

Not Using Seat Belts - Seatbelts significantly reduce the risk of injury or death during an automobile Wreck. However, it is estimated that only 54% of teenage drivers or their passengers are estimated to routinely use their seat belts. Nationwide, it it estimated that seatbelts save up to 13,000 lives per year.

Alcohol -Alcohol use among teenage drivers continues to claim a significant number of lives. It is estimated that up to 25% of all fatal teenage car Wrecks involve alcohol. According to statistics collected by MADD, 6% of 16 and 17-year-old drivers, and 15% of 18 to 20-year-old drivers have reported driving under the influence within the past year. Of those involved in fatal Wrecks, 33% had BAC levels exceeding .08. Moreover, 60% of inebriated teenage drivers involved in these fatal Wrecks were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the collision.

Speeding / Reckless Driving - Approximately 35% of teenage automobile Wreck reports list speeding as a contributing factor to the incident. Male drivers are more likely to be involved in high-speed fatality crashes than females. Other reckless behaviors include rapid lane changes, illegal turns, tailgating, and activities such as street racing and off-roading.

Graduated Driver Licenses Save Lives

Tennessee restricts teenage drivers via graduated driver licenses. Nationwide, it is estimated that graduated driver license programs reduce the incidence of fatal car crashes among 16 and 17-year old drivers by 8 to 14%.

In Tennessee, the state offers the following graduated licenses for novice drivers:

Learners Permit -Allows drivers who are 15 years old and pass the written exam to operate a motor vehicle with a driver age 21 or older in the vehicle. These drivers may not be on the road between 10pm and 6am. Drivers must hold this permit for 180 days or longer.

Intermediate Restricted -This allows teenage drivers age 16 or older to drive once they have held a learner permit for 180 days or longer. Drivers holding this license may have one passenger in the car and may not drive between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Moreover, drivers holding restricted licenses may not have more than 6 points on their license during the first six months of holding the license.

Intermediate - Intermediate licenses are issued to drivers 17 years or older. They must first hold an intermediated restricted license for a period of one year. During that time, they may not have more than six points on their driving record, nor can they have two or more seatbelt violations.

Hardship Licenses - Hardship licenses are issued to drivers age 14 or older who can demonstrate a significant financial or lifestyle burden exists within their family that requires them to drive a motor vehicle.

Recent Wrecks are Cause for Concern

Wrecks involving teenage drivers are down in Tennessee, however, a recent increase in fatal teenage Wrecks since November 2016 in Williamson county present a cause for concern. These Wrecks are a reminder that seatbelt laws, graduated driver's licenses, alcohol education, and prohibitions on texting while driving save lives; but only when drivers obey the law and adhere to the rules of the road.

For those who are involved in an Wreck with a teenage driver, an auto Wreck attorney can help pursue claims for the property damage, pain and suffering, loss of income, and other expenses that an auto Wreck can create.

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