January is Teen Driving Awareness Month, marking a rite of passage for young people by highlighting the need for teen driver safety training. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Consider the following facts:
- In 2014, 2,270 teens ages 16 to 19 were killed, and 221,313 were treated for injuries suffered in auto accidents.
- Teens statistically become safer drivers as they gain more experience behind the wheel. The crash rate per mile driven is three times higher for teens age 16 to 17 than teens age 18 to 19.
- Males ages 16 to 19 are two times more likely to be killed in motor vehicle accidents than their female counterparts. This increased risk is due to their higher rates of engaging in risky behavior such as speeding and driving while intoxicated.
- Teens with passengers face an increased risk of injury or death, with the risk increasing for each additional passenger. Passengers create distractions, making it harder for an inexperienced driver to concentrate on the road.
What Can Parents Do?
As a parent, your top priority is your child's safety. Here are some simple ways to help keep a newly licensed driver safe behind the wheel:
- Model safe driving behavior for your teen, including obeying all rules regarding the use of cell phones behind the wheel. Multiple surveys of teens have indicated that parents are their top role models for learning safe driving habits.
- Set consequences for failure to follow safe driving procedures before you allow your teen to drive unsupervised. Do not allow a teen who has demonstrated a repeated disregard for the safety of himself and others to continue driving independently.
- Stress the importance of always wearing your seat belt. Teens often feel invulnerable and don’t fully comprehend the importance of safety restraints.
- Consider not allowing your teen to transport passengers or limiting the number of passengers he's able to have in the car at any time. This includes siblings as well as friends.
- Limit nighttime driving until your teen has gained ample experience driving during daytime hours.
- Do not allow inexperienced teens to drive without supervision in poor weather conditions.
- Create a plan for your teen to obtain alternate transportation if he's too impaired to drive safely. Stress that drowsy driving or driving while under the influence of certain prescription medications can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Special Liability Concerns for Teen Drivers
Accidents may happen even when parents do everything in their power to keep their teen driver safe. All it takes is one wrong decision or an error in judgement for a teen to cause an accident.
The ability to seek compensation for injuries resulting from an accident depends on who is the at-fault driver. A teen who is found to have only partially contributed to the accident can still collect compensation for his injuries from the other driver's insurance company, but compensation will be reduced by percentage of fault.
When a teen driver is at fault in an accident, Louisiana law allows the other driver to pursue a personal injury claim against the teen's parents under the doctrine of parental vicarious liability. However, these types of claims require that the defendant prove the parents knew or should have known that the teen had a history of unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, running red lights, or texting and driving.
Protecting a Teen’s Legal Rights
If your teen has been injured in an auto accident, seeking the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect his legal right to compensation. A skilled attorney can negotiate on your teen’s behalf for the highest possible settlement, even if your teen was partially at fault for the accident.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to assisting Louisiana drivers in resolving their personal injury claims. To learn more, contact us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.