Teen Driver Safety Spotlighted as School Year Begins

Teen Driver Safety Spotlighted as School Year Begins

Not long after the start of fall classes, a 16-year-old high school junior from Highland and her friend were out together on a Friday night. The driver was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed and lost control of the car. She crashed into a field and was killed. Her young friend survived, but suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization.

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Our St. Louis car accident lawyers know sadly this will not be the only teen accident we hear of this 2014-2015 school year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports eight teenagers are killed in car crashes every single day.

Federal crash statistics last year indicate that in Missouri, 195 people were killed by teen drivers. Of those, 88 were the drivers themselves, 62 were passengers, 39 were occupants of other vehicles and 6 were non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.). In fact, Missouri ranked 7th in the nation for having the highest number of teen traffic fatalities.

Crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teens – higher than homicide, suicide and cancer combined.

While many of these crashes are attributable to distraction or intoxication on the part of teens, researchers say the biggest problem for novice drivers is inexperience.

It’s encouraging to note that enforcement of tougher teen driving laws, mostly passed in the 1990s, has resulted in a one-third reduction of motor vehicle deaths among teens since then. Those measures include delaying the option of a temporary permit until age 16 and mandating 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving before the teen has eligibility for a driver’s license. And yet, crashes still account for 1 out of every 4 teen deaths.

In Missouri, the graduated driver’s license law allows teens to obtain an instruction permit at age 15, which requires accompaniment at all times by an older, licensed driver. Then there is an intermediate license that one can obtain at age 16, and which restricts nighttime driving and, for the first six months, passengers under 19 who are not immediate family members. Teens may not obtain a full, graduated driver’s license until age 18.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily stop teens from disobeying these rules (especially if they aren’t enforced by parents) or from driving recklessly.

It doesn’t help that Missouri is one of six states yet to enact a texting-while-driving ban. However, some Missouri cities have taken steps to further strengthen measures on their own. For example, St. Charles’ city council recently passed a texting-while-driving ban within city limits. The ban extends to all age groups, but it’s well-documented that teens are far more vulnerable to distraction resulting in serious injury when texting and driving.

The CDC recommends parents provide at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice over the course of six months. During this time, try to practice on a variety of different roads, times of day and in varied traffic and weather conditions. Also stress the importance of constantly watching for pedestrians, bicyclists, children and motorcycles. Require your teen to buckle up on every trip, and don’t allow any activities – such as talking on the cell phone, texting, playing with the radio or eating – that might steal their attention away from the road.

Finally, reinforce the message about why impaired driving is so dangerous. Make sure your child knows even one drink can hamper his or her ability to make it home safely.

Additional Resources:
Mackey v. Smith, Aug. 12, 2014, Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District

More Blog Entries:
Kingsley v. McDonald – Court Greenlights Accident Lawsuit Despite Technical Error, June 11, 2014, St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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