Austin Teen Driver Accident Attorney
Statistically speaking, young drivers are dangerous drivers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of motor vehicle accidents is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than in any other age group. The same holds true in Texas, where teenagers and drivers in their 20s routinely cause the most serious injury and fatal crashes each year.
Inexperience and a false sense of invincibility are often factors in many of the worst car wrecks involving teens and other young people. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a teenager or other inexperienced driver in Texas, call the personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at The Bob Richardson Law Firm. For more than three decades, we have helped clients hold young motorists accountable for their negligence by obtaining compensation to help with medical bills, missed wages, property damage and other losses.
Contact our Austin teen driver accident lawyers at 800-880-5100 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation. We serve clients in Austin, Waco and surrounding Texas communities, including Round Rock, Georgetown, Killeen, Temple, Cedar Park, Lakeway, Taylor and Belton.
About Texas Car Accidents and Teenagers
Most of us remember the excitement of getting our driver’s licenses. Driving means independence and freedom from carpools and school bus rides — but it also means that teenage drivers must understand and respect the rules of the road. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. The most recent data from the Texas Department of Transportation reports that 12,700 drivers involved in serious injury accidents in 2010 were between the ages of 16 and 19, and more than 350 drivers in fatal crashes during the same period were in that same age group.
Research shows that the risk for motor vehicle accidents is highest in the first year in which teenagers drive. According to the CDC, the most common cause of these wrecks involves young drivers who:
- Fail to recognize hazardous road conditions
- Underestimate dangerous traffic situations
- Follow too closely
- Don’t wear seat belts
Texas Laws Aim to Curb Deadly Teenage Crashes
Many states, including Texas, have special licensing requirements that must be met before a young driver is allowed on the roads independently. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are intended to ease teenage drivers into operating a vehicle by giving them experience behind the wheel in lower-risk environments.
The Texas GDL requirements are split into two phases:
- Phase 1: Those under 18 must hold a learner’s permit for six months and complete a classroom driver’s training course. Once the driver reaches age 16 and has a clean record of no suspensions or revocations, they are eligible to “graduate” to the next phase.
- Phase 2: Graduates can obtain a provisional driver’s license that provides stringent rules about when they can drive and who can accompany them. For the first 12 months after obtaining a provisional license, drivers under 18 may not drive with more than one passenger in the car under the age of 21, unless it is a family member. In addition, teens are subject to a driving curfew that keeps them off Texas roads from midnight to 5 a.m.
Teenagers Texting While Driving In Texas
More than half of American teenagers admit to texting while driving, according to a recently released study by the CDC. While 39 states have outlawed texting behind the wheel, Texas limits only those with provisional licenses at this time. Regardless, teens may still be held liable for negligence if, while texting, they cause a devastating vehicle accident that injures or kills another motorist, pedestrian or motorcyclist.
There is also no law limiting drivers’ use of cell phones behind the wheel in Texas, except in school zones. Teens also may be just as impaired by other distractions behind the wheel. Eating, drinking, fiddling with their iPod or even talking with other passengers can take their attention off the road and increase the likelihood of making serious driving mistakes.
Accidents Involving Teen Drivers
Young people who have only recently gotten a license to drive are often excited about their newfound freedom, independence and mobility. Unfortunately, because they are new to driving, their skills are usually not up to their enthusiasm.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), teens crash more than other drivers because they lack experience. Driving expertise and judgment often take time to develop. Brand-new teen drivers may have difficulty executing turns safely or correctly judging gaps in traffic or the right speed for conditions, for example.
According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adolescents often have difficulty controlling their emotions and behavior, and this is another contributing factor to their higher risk of causing an accident. Because of physiological, environmental and psychological conditions, teens tend to be more impulsive, novelty-seeking and risk-taking than older drivers, according to the NIH report.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., surpassing homicide, suicide and disease, combined. As stated by the NSC, 60 percent of fatalities in accidents caused by teen drivers are people other than the teen drivers.
Nationwide statistics provided by the IIHS include the following:
- 2,524 young people ages 13 to 19 died in traffic crashes in one recent year.
- Approximately 2 out of every 3 teenage traffic fatalities were male.
- 9 percent of all motor vehicle accident deaths were teenagers.
- 52 percent of the teenage passenger vehicle occupants who died as passengers in traffic crashes were riding in vehicles driven by other teenagers.
In Texas alone, the Department of Transportation reports that 108 drivers ages 13 to 19 died in motor vehicle accidents (excluding motorcycles) in a single recent year. An additional 122 passengers 13 to 19 years of age died in traffic crashes. Altogether, teen drivers were involved in 73,226 crashes out of 805,401 total accidents statewide. Of the accidents involving teen drivers, 10,415 resulted in serious injuries.
As discussed in an NSC video about teen driving, the first 12 months and the first 1,000 miles of driving are the riskiest times in a teenager’s life. For adolescents in the early stages of driving experience, several factors can contribute to accidents, including:
- Alcohol – According to the IIHS, teens are less likely to drink and drive than adults, but when they do, they have a significantly higher crash risk, particularly at low to moderate blood alcohol content (BAC). The combination of alcohol impairment and inexperience can have disastrous effects when teens drink and drive. In the 16 to 17 age group, 12 percent of fatally injured drivers had a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.
- Speeding – As reported in a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) news release, speeding contributes to one-third of all fatal traffic accidents involving teens. Speeding is more prevalent at night, among male teenagers and with other teenagers in the vehicle. According to the GHSA release, more than half of the crashes involving 16 year old male drivers and three or more teenage passengers are caused by speeding.
- Judgment errors – Teens are new to driving and lack the skills that develop with experience. It is not uncommon, according to the NSC, for teen drivers to misjudge gaps in traffic, travel too fast for conditions or make dangerous errors when turning.
- Texting while driving – Texting and driving is a major contributing factor to teen driver accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a quarter of teen drivers respond to at least one text message every time they get behind the wheel, and a fifth have multi-message conversations while driving.
- Peer passenger distraction – The presence of even one teenage passenger in a vehicle increases the crash risk for teen drivers by 44 percent. This is because teen passengers create a distraction that teen drivers lack the experience to handle.
The NSC says that half of all teenagers in the U.S. will be involved in a motor vehicle accident before they graduate high school. A car crash can be a shock, even when the damage is minor. It is good to be prepared in advance and know what to do should an accident occur.
If you are involved in a collision, it is important to take the following basic steps:
- Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic if possible. If not, turn on your hazard lights.
- Call 911 if anyone is injured. Otherwise, call the police, and get a copy of the police report.
- Take pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved in the collision.
- Get contact information from the other driver involved in the crash, including name, address, telephone number and insurance information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some type of graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. The Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) administers the Texas GDL program implemented in 2002.
GDL programs give new drivers an opportunity to get the driving experience they need under low-risk conditions by legally restricting their driving privileges and gradually increasing them in three stages.
In the first stage, only completely supervised driving is allowed under a learner’s permit, which must be held for at least six months for drivers under the age of 18 in Texas. In the second, provisional license phase, the teen is allowed to drive unsupervised, but with certain restrictions aimed at eliminating high-risk factors. In Texas, the provisional license restrictions prohibit:
- Driving with more than one passenger under the age of 21 who is not a family member in the vehicle.
- Driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless it is necessary to drive because of a medical emergency, or for work or a school-related activity.
Using any wireless communication device while driving, including hands-free devices, except in the case of an emergency, until the teen reaches the age of 18.
When teen drivers comply with these restrictions, three major contributing factors to teen accidents are eliminated while the teen driver gains experience. Those factors are driving with other teenagers in the vehicle, driving at night and talking or texting while driving. The learner’s permit and provisional license phases of the GDL program give teens valuable driving experience under less risky conditions before gaining full driving privileges in the third phase of the program.
Schedule A Free Case Review With Our Car Accident Lawyers Today
The personal injury attorneys at The Bob Richardson Law Firm will present a solid case on your behalf if you are the victim of an accident caused by a teenage driver in Texas. Call 800-880-5100 now or use our online form so that our attorneys can advise you about your legal options. There’s nothing to lose — you won’t pay unless we win your case.