Teens get into more car accidents because they are less experienced drivers. Teen drivers are more likely to make mistakes or take risks such as speeding, driving while distracted, or drinking and driving. Most teen driving accidents are single-vehicle accidents, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says. Depending on the auto insurance coverage, compensation could be recovered.
If you are a teen driver in Virginia, or a teen’s parent, there are proactive steps you should know about to avoid traffic tickets and to prevent being involved in an accident.
5 tips for teen drivers to follow
Don’t Drive While Distracted by Phones or People
You have no doubt heard about the danger of driving while texting or otherwise using your cellphone behind the wheel. Glancing down to read or send a text while driving at 55 mph is like blindfolding yourself for the distance of a football field. In Virginia, teen distracted driving is a real threat to highway safety. If you have a Virginia learner’s permit or driver’s license and are under age 18, it is illegal to use any kind of wireless communication device while driving, including all handheld and hands-free cell phones and text messaging devices. Older drivers in Virginia are prohibited from texting while driving, too. Distracted driving may involve other activities besides texting and talking on a cellphone. Anything that takes a driver’s attention from the road is a distraction and a danger.
For teen drivers, teenage passengers in the car are often a distraction. Teen passengers are going to be talkative and active, and that can distract a young driver. Many states now have graduated licensing programs to give young drivers more responsibility gradually as they gain experience behind the wheel. Virginia’s graduated driver licensing program limits first-year drivers to having no more than one non-family passenger under age 21, and no more than three non-family teen passengers under 21 until a driver is 18 years old. Abiding by Virginia’s restrictions on the use of cellphones while driving, and not carrying teen passengers can help a young driver stay focused on the task of driving, avoid traffic citations and prevent accidents.
Don’t Drive While Impaired by Alcohol or Fatigue
It is illegal for teens to drink in Virginia or anywhere in the U.S., so parents should have zero tolerance for teen drinking and driving. In Virginia, 29 teenage drivers (ages 15 to 19) died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, the Virginia Highway Safety Office says. As common as teen drunk driving accidents are in Virginia, there is another type of impairment common among teens that makes driving dangerous: sleepiness. Drowsy or fatigued driving is, in fact, a lot like drunk driving. Lack of sleep slows reaction time and impairs judgment and situational awareness, much like alcohol does.
The National Sleep Foundation says sleep-related crashes are most common among young drivers, who tend to stay up late, sleep too little, and drive at night. Teens who are in school and engaged in extracurricular activities or working part-time are among the drivers most susceptible to drowsy driving. The only way to avoid the danger is to not drive when tired and get some rest. Parents need to be aware of their children’s activities, especially if they have teens with busy schedules. Only 20 percent of adolescents get the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights, and nearly one-half sleep less than eight hours on school nights.
Make Buckling Up a Habit
Teen drivers should get in the habit of wearing a seat belt. Buckling up takes a couple of seconds, and if you make a conscious effort every time you get in a car to put on a seat belt, it will quickly become second nature. It could save your life someday. As soon as you buckle up in the front seat of a car or truck (which is required by law in Virginia), you reduce your risk of a fatal injury in a crash almost by half, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other car safety features — particularly air bags — don’t work as effectively if you are not buckled up. In 2016, seat belts saved nearly 15,000 lives. Parents should model proper seatbelt use and remind anyone in your car who needs to hear it to buckle up. Every time.
Understand and Avoid Hazardous Driving Conditions
Virginia has its share of adverse weather including rain, snow, sleet, ice and fog. Teen drivers need to understand the risk that bad weather poses. Inclement weather reduces visibility, impairs driver capabilities and reduces vehicle traction and maneuverability. Rain slick pavement, icy roads and poor visibility increase crash risk, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) says. The FHA says more than 1.2 million weather-related crashes each year cause nearly 5,000 deaths and more than 418,000 injuries. It’s easy to think you can handle a slick road. But once a car loses traction and starts to slide on ice or hydroplane, the driver loses all control of the vehicle. Drivers who cannot avoid driving in inclement weather need to slow down and increase their following distance. Keep a steady speed and avoid hard braking. After a snowfall this winter, once main roads are cleared, parents might take a teen somewhere like an empty parking lot to practice driving on snow and ice.
Be Prepared for an Accident
Unfortunately, it’s quite likely that your teen will get into at least a fender-bender. You should teach them what to expect and what is expected of them, such as being ready to show police the vehicle’s registration card and proof of auto insurance. Here are steps to prepare for a car accident claim to review with your teen and put in the vehicle he or she drives.
Teen Drivers and Their Parents May Be Liable for Car Accidents
Driving a car is part of being an adult. Another part of being an adult is being held accountable when you make a mistake, especially if it happened because you were negligent or reckless.
A teen of legal age (18 or 19) may be sued after causing a car accident that left another driver or a passenger injured or dead. A younger teen’s parents may be targeted by a personal injury or wrongful death claim after causing a car accident.
Car accident attorney helps injured people and families obtain compensation for medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses incurred in crashes.