We Can Help after a Traffic Accident Involving a Teen Driver
Most of us have experienced the teenage years, typically consisting of peer pressure, increased freedoms, and the feeling of invincibility. These factors combined can lead to the near staggering rate of teenage car accidents in Missouri. Teen drivers rank in the top percentage of car accidents and fatalities in Missouri.
While the number of car accident injuries involving young drivers has declined significantly during the last 10 years, more than 10,000 people suffer injuries and 100 people die each year due to teenage drivers in Missouri. These numbers are almost equal to the personal injuries and deaths caused by adult drivers despite adult drivers making up the vast majority of Missouri motor vehicle operators.
Sadly, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and young persons between the ages of 15 to 20 were the most likely to get into a crash resulting in disabling injuries. While developing good driver instincts takes time, you shouldn’t have to pay for the bad driving behaviors of some teenage driver in St. Louis. If you or a loved one was injured or killed by a negligent driver of any age, schedule your free auto accident consultation with the St. Louis car crash attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm today by calling (314) 391-5220 or contacting us online.
Missouri Teenage Driving Laws
One of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States is distracted driving due to technology, i.e., texting while driving. Drivers who check their phones are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash, and almost half of all teenage drivers admit to texting while driving. Growing up with smartphone technology in combination with the use of phones for GPS and social media only increases the likelihood teenage drivers will use their phones in the car.
Missouri laws prohibit drivers younger than 21 from texting or using their mobile devices while driving, and pending legislation could extend the ban to all Missouri drivers. Several Missouri cities, including some St. Louis suburbs, have passed local bans. Missouri further regulates teenage driving as follows:
- Graduated driving laws: Teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 must begin driving with a learner’s permit whereby they may only drive with a licensed adult. After passing their driving test, teenagers are given an “intermediate license” until they are 18, at which time they may apply for a full license.
- Mandatory training: Teenagers are required to undergo road safety training and log 40 hours of driving instruction with 10 hours of nighttime driving instruction before applying for an intermediate license.
- Intermediate license restrictions: Teenage drivers under 18 are not permitted to drive between the hours of 1 am and 5 am other than for work, school, emergencies, or with a licensed driver over 21. Further, all passengers must use seatbelts even when the law permits otherwise.
- Drug and alcohol restrictions: Teenagers with an alcohol-related or traffic conviction within certain time frames are not permitted to obtain a full license. No drivers or passengers are permitted to consume or transport drugs or alcohol.
- Passenger restrictions: During the first six months of obtaining your intermediate license, you may not drive more than one passenger under the age of 19 who is not an immediate family member, i.e., a sibling or child. After six months, you may not have more than three passengers who are under the age of 19.
While some teenagers, whether through ignorance or peer pressure, do not adhere to these laws, the law allows innocent injured drivers with protection through insurance compensation. Proving that a teenager or any other driver violated Missouri traffic laws can prove they were negligent which means negligent for violating the law. This often permits you to recover financial damages for your injuries. Even if a driver did not commit a “crime”, you can still seek compensation. In fact, most civil claims for compensation rarely involve a crime, but center on negligence that causes damage.
Teenage Driving Risk Factors
Most teenage driving accidents occur between 3 pm and midnight and on the weekends. Further, teenagers have a higher risk of driving while intoxicated because they often do not appreciate the impact of alcohol on their blood alcohol concentration. Young men between the ages of 16 and 19 are statistically more likely to be involved in driving accidents and are more likely to drive while intoxicated or without a seatbelt.
Teenage driving isn’t only dangerous for other drivers, it’s dangerous for passengers. Many teenagers report getting into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver and not wearing their seatbelt. Succumbing to peer pressure can often lead to serious personal injuries and fatalities when young drivers travel together.
The following are the leading causes of teenage car crashes:
- Nighttime driving
- Driver inexperience
- Driving with other teenage passengers
- Distracted driving
- Fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence, and
- Reckless driving
There is additional science behind teenage driving accidents. Teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep as they grow, yet they often leave for school before 7 a.m. and stay up late to finish homework after extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs. This leads to an increased rate of drowsy driving among teenagers, which is a cause of serious car accidents in Missouri. However, inexperience itself is the leading cause of teenage crashes in the United States. Statistics indicate that three out of four teenage driving crashes are due to inexperience.
Most Common Teenage Driver Errors
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that the best way to combat inexperienced driving is for teenagers to drive with an experienced passenger for at least 30 minutes each week for at least a year. Parental involvement and training can help mitigate the likelihood of car accidents caused by inexperience. Parents must take the time to ensure their teen is learning to drive safely. It’s reported that no matter the grades or responsibility of a teenager, nothing makes up for experience and parental involvement. The following are the most common driving errors teenagers make in causing car crashes:
- Lack of scanning the roadway: Teenagers who don’t always understand complex intersections, turns, and rights of way often don’t fully scan the roadway. They may not look for other vehicles turning out of driveways, crossing the median, or acting in legal but unexpected ways on the road.
- Driving too fast for conditions: Most parents want to teach their children to drive in clear, sunny conditions. While this is a good start, many teenagers don’t understand how to drive in the rain, snow, or other severe weather. It’s important to train and test teenagers in a variety of conditions so they understand the difference in vehicle handling, braking, and speed.
- Distraction: Aside from phone use, the distraction from passengers and external conditions leads to many accidents. A car full of friends laughing and pointing or a nearby accident may distract a young driver with no habitual instincts to fall back on. New drivers need to think when driving, while more mature drivers have a set of instinctual reactions to certain stimuli, i.e., breaking and accelerating as necessary even when distracted. A teenager must think about whether the vehicle in front of him is braking, while an adult can immediately tell by the brake lights.
Practicing with a skilled driver as a passenger at night, in heavy traffic, in unique weather conditions, and with distractions can decrease teenage driving accidents in Missouri and Illinois.
Avoiding Teenage Driving Accidents
Recognizing, accommodating, and avoiding inexperienced drivers is the most effective way of preventing car crashes and injuries. You can’t control other drivers on the road, but you can learn to recognize the signs of inexperienced drivers and protect yourself from harm. The following behaviors are signs of inexperienced driving:
- Speeding – This is a factor in one-third of all fatal teen driving crashes. Excessive speeding indicates a driver who hasn’t suffered the consequences of his actions either through an accident or speeding ticket. If a driver is speeding or weaving, find a way to avoid him.
- Sudden braking – Distraction and unfamiliarity with a vehicle can result in sudden braking. Sudden or unexpected breaking and speed changes indicate that a driver isn’t familiar with the pressure and distance needed to stop a vehicle. This is a strong sign of inexperienced driving.
- Noise – Loud music and noise from multiple passengers is often a sign of teenage driving. This can indicate a driver is likely distracted.
- Indecisive merging – One of the hardest driving lessons is merging onto highways and into different lanes. This comes with practice, and inexperienced drivers will often attempt a merge only to abort it multiple times or brake unexpectedly. Further, they may not understand how to pick up speed to merge onto the highway, forcing other vehicles off the road.
- Indecisive turning – Similar to merging, teenage drivers often have difficulty judging the distance and speed of other vehicles on the road. This means they may refuse to make a turn in fear or unintentionally cut you off when turning into traffic. This was one of the leading causes of teenage driving accidents due to inexperience.
- Failure to yield – Inexperienced drivers often don’t understand the nature of decision making on the road, especially when multiple vehicles have the right of way. A teen driver may make a left on green not understanding that oncoming traffic also has a green light. This can cause serious T-bone and intersection accidents. The same is true of multi-way stop signs where a teen may not understand the nuances of yielding or the relevant traffic signals, such as flashing lights.
Defensive driving is the best way to protect yourself from accidents, including crashes caused by teenage drivers or other drivers driving poorly. You may have the right of way, but be ever vigilant that the driver may not yield and be cautious.
Personal Injuries from Teenage Driving Accidents
Teenage car crashes can cause anything from whiplash to death. Teenage passengers who don’t wear seatbelts often suffer from severe head injuries and paralysis as they are thrown through windshields or ejected. Teenage driving accidents in St. Louis often result in the following personal injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Whiplash and tendon injuries
- Broken ribs
- Knee injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Herniated discs
- Internal bleeding, and
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Your personal injuries often depend on the nature of the crash. T-bone accidents can cause serious neck injuries, shoulder injuries, facial injuries, and broken ribs. Rear-end accidents often result in whiplash, back injuries, head injuries, and knee injuries. Head-on collisions are often fatal, and they can result in fractured ribs, broken legs, and internal bleeding. Of course, any kind of collision can produce any number of kinds of injuries that may vary from minor to severe to fatal.
Recovering Compensation From a Teenage Driver in Missouri
Most teenage drivers are driving under their parents’ insurance or driving their parents’ car. This means you may recover compensation from the parents’ insurance company and/or the owner of the vehicle. Obtaining compensation from the owner of a vehicle whether it is a teenager or parent is irrelevant. Ultimately, your claim is against an insurance company and the insurance is the avenue and for recovery as most teenagers are not financially secure. Teenagers who own their own vehicles or carry their own insurance often carry the state minimum insurance limits, and as such, you may be able to recover compensation from your own insurer’s personal injury and underinsured motorist policy. There are options if you’ve suffered injuries due to a young driver in a St. Louis car crash.
Contact an Experienced St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney Today
Personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by teenage drivers are tragic but often unavoidable. Whether the accident was due to the driver driving under the influence, mistakes due to inexperience or plain bad driving choices, the cause doesn’t mitigate your pain. The top-rated St. Louis personal injury lawyers at The Cagle Law Firm know the dangers associated with teenage driving in Missouri, and we may be able to help you recover compensation. To schedule your free, risk-free personal injury consultation with one of our experienced car crash attorneys, call us today at (314) 391-5220 or contact us online.
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