Statistics from traffic accident reports in Virginia show an alarming increase in teens killed in car accidents from 2020 to 2021.
The VA Department of Motor Vehicles’ 2021 Traffic Crash Facts report says teen driver fatalities increased by 55.6% in 2021. A total of 42 teen drivers died in 2021 compared to 27 teen driver fatalities in 2020.
The DMV defines a teen driver fatality as one in which a driver aged 15 to 19 dies within 30 days as a result of a traffic crash. The report shows that 3,489 teen drivers were injured in traffic accidents in Virginia in 2021. That reflects an 8.35% increase from the 3,220 teen drivers reported injured in the 2020 report.
Inexperienced drivers – primarily teenagers – are more likely than older drivers to fail to recognize dangerous traffic situations that lead to accidents. Teens also are more likely to make critical decision errors that can result in serious crashes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
Many teenagers are responsible drivers, but their lack of skills and maturity put teen drivers at greater risk of being involved in accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Virginia caused by a teenage driver, contact an experienced Charlottesville car accident lawyer at the Kendall Law Firm. We can help you pursue a claim for the maximum compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries.
Why Are Teen Drivers More at Risk in Deadly Car Accidents?
Multiple safety advocacy organizations have studied teenage driving deaths. The CDC says motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death among U.S. teens. In 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death for all children.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says teenagers drive less than all but the oldest drivers, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. The fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16-19-year-olds is nearly three times the rate for drivers aged 20 and over. Risk is highest at ages 16-17.
“In addition to having higher death rates, teen drivers pose a greater danger to others on the road,” the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) says in a 2021 report, Teens and Speeding: Breaking the Deadly Cycle. “They pose the highest risk of death to their passengers, occupants of other passenger vehicles, and non-vehicle occupants, such as pedestrians and cyclists.”
The CDC says the young drivers most at risk are teenage boys. The death rate for male drivers aged 16-19 is more than two times higher than the death rate for female drivers of the same age.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increases by 51%. This is because the presence of other teens encourages a teen driver to take more risks.
The GHSA says that from 2015 to 2019, teen drivers and passengers (16-19 years of age) had a greater proportion of speeding-related fatalities (43%) than all other age groups (30%).
“While the youngest teen drivers (16- and 17-year-olds) have the highest fatal crash risk due to lack of experience, their older counterparts (18- and 19-year-olds) are more likely to crash later at night on highways and freeways,” the GHSA report says. “And when it comes to passengers, the risk of a teen driver being involved in a speeding-related fatal crash increases exponentially with each additional peer in the vehicle.”
Additional leading causes of accidents caused by teenage drivers include:
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving
- Impaired driving
Teen Drivers and the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer
Summer is a dangerous time for teenage drivers and those on the road with them. AAA calls the stretch of summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day the 100 deadliest days of driving for teens.
AAA says summer is deadly because more teens are driving for longer periods in the summer since school is out and they have more free time. They also are more likely to have multiple teens in the vehicle. Virginia law permits teen drivers under the age of 18 to carry only one passenger under the age of 21 unless accompanied by a parent.
“We know that when teens are joyriding as opposed to driving with a specific destination and time in mind, there is a heightened risk,” said Diana Gugliotta, senior manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast.
What Can Parents Do About The Safety Of Their Teen Drivers?
Believe it or not, you are still your teenager’s best teacher and role model.
The AAA and GHSA have suggestions that include:
- Modeling safe driving behavior. It is important for parents to model safe driving behavior and be consistent in the messages they tell their teens versus their own driving behaviors.
- Understanding and enforcing state graduated driver licensing programs. Virginia’s teen driving restrictions limit the number of passengers under age 21 and limit nighttime driving.
- Parent-teen driving agreements. These agreements typically cover the key risk factors for teens including passengers, cell phones and texting, seat belts, driving at night, and the use of alcohol. AAA offers a guide to developing a parent/teen driving contract.
- Vehicles with built-in safety technology. If you provide your teen with a car to drive, make it as safe as you can. Advanced safety features available on many vehicles as either standard or optional equipment include lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and speed limit recognition.
- Use of driver monitoring apps. Many free and low-cost smartphone apps have been developed to support safe driving behavior.
Talk to a Teen Driving Accident Lawyer in Charlottesville, VA
Every parent wants their child to grow up and be a productive member of society. For most lifestyles, this requires driving safely. But the privilege to drive comes with responsibilities and accountability for negligence or recklessness that leads to an accident.
If you or your child has been injured or you have lost a loved one in a car accident in Charlottesville caused by careless or reckless driving, take advantage of Kendall Law Firm’s offer of a free case evaluation. We will review the facts of the accident and discuss your legal option. Contact us today.