It's every parent's worst nightmare and every teenager's dream – a teenage driver's license. With the increased freedom comes increased risk, and increased parental worry. So what happens when a teenager does get into an accident? In this article, we'll talk about the consequences of a teenage at-fault accident, liability, and teenage driving statistics.
If you were in an accident with a teenage driver or if your teenager caused the accident, call or text our car accident lawyers in Arizona to schedule a free initial consultation. You can reach us at 602-345-1818 or fill out our convenient and confidential online form.
Teenagers Are, Statistically-Speaking, Not Great Drivers
Every year, teenagers account for a disproportionate amount of accidents. Teenage drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving and speeding; they also tend to make inexperienced decisions behind the wheel. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2019, almost 2,400 teens in the US aged 13 - 19 were killed as a result of car accidents. Around 258,000 teenagers were treated for injuries sustained in accidents at the emergency room. Translated into other terms, about 7 teenagers a day died in fatal crashes, while hundreds more were injured. The CDC also reports that motor vehicle crash fatalities among teens 15 - 19 years of age resulted in about $4.8 billion in medical and work loss costs for crashes that occurred in 2018.
Risk Factors Associated with Teenage Driving
Teenagers have little experience when they get their license, which is a huge risk factor. Teens are more likely not to recognize dangerous situations. They are also more likely to make poor driving decisions due to their inexperience.
Additionally, nighttime and weekend driving may be more dangerous – teens are more likely to be behind the wheel during these times. In 2019, 40% of car accident fatalities among teens happened between 9 pm and 6 am, and 52% occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. According to a 2016–2017 report by National Household Travel Survey, data indicates that minor drivers aged 16 - 19 years were almost 3 times as likely to be involved in fatal nighttime crashes than adult drivers aged 30 - 59 years per mile driven.
Teen drivers are also less likely to utilize their seatbelts. Of the teen drivers and passengers 16 - 19 years of age who died in car accidents in 2019, almost half were unrestrained at the time of the crash (when restraint use was known).
Distracted driving is a big issue for teen drivers, and it can cause severe accidents. There are three types of distracted driving:
- Visual - This includes engaging in any activity that involves taking your eyes off the road, such as texting, using a navigation system, or applying makeup
- Manual - This includes taking your hands off the wheel, for eating or adjusting the radio
- Cognitive - This includes things that take your mind off of driving, like talking on the phone or speaking with other passengers
Some common forms of distracted driving for teenagers include:
- Using a mobile device, including to text, use social media, talk or FaceTime, access the internet, or take selfies
- Watching/streaming videos or using entertainment devices
- Grooming while driving, such as doing hair or makeup
- Eating behind the wheel
- Rowdy passengers, partying or dancing in the car
- Driving while upset, emotional, or angry
- Reading a book, newspaper, directions, instructions, or email
Arizona Laws Protecting Teen Drivers
Note that Arizona has laws in place to keep teens safe on the road. A teenager under the age of 18 with a graduated driver's license is not permitted to legally operate a motor vehicle on a public highway with more than one passenger at a time in Arizona. Exceptions may apply. This rule is intended to reduce distracted driving.
A parent or legal guardian has to sign a teenager's application for a graduated driver's license for the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to be able to process it. An MVD agent must witness the signature and notarize it. The adult who signs will be responsible for any misconduct by the teenager while he or she is driving.
What to Do After a Teenage Car Accident
If your teenager is in an accident, ensure they follow our car accident aftermath checklist to protect themselves, their passengers, others involved, as well as any potential claims they may have in the future.
- Assess the safety and health of yourself and others involved; call for medical assistance, if needed
- Ensure you call the authorities to draft an official report; this may be a crucial piece of evidence going forward
- Get information from the other driver(s), including their name, address, telephone number, driver's license number, and insurance information.
- Obtain information from potential witnesses of the accident
- Take pictures of the accident; remember to do so safely
- Do not post pictures of the accident on social media
- Never take blame or admit fault of any kind; this can be used against you later
- See a doctor; even if you “feel fine” following the accident, remember that potential injuries may not be evident until days after the accident has happened
Liability in Teenage Car Accidents
Typically, a parent or guardian will be vicariously liable for the teen if he or she caused the accident. These rules of vicarious liability apply to cases where the minor under 18 years of age engaged in negligent or reckless behavior that caused the accident. Financial recovery of the involved parties will typically fall on the insurance policy of the at-fault teen's parents.
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Note that the information on our website and blog is intended for general information purposes only. It is NOT intended to be taken as legal advice. Every case is unique, so please call our car accident lawyers about the specifics of your case.