Teens and Motor Vehicle Accidents: Another Take on the New Law

On September 29th, we discussed the proposed changes in the driving laws which would not permit teens to be licensed until they turned 18.  We see the new laws as a positive step in preventing serious personal injury due to motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers.

However, a nationwide new study conducted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows that tougher licensing laws for teenage drivers have reduced deadly accidents among 16-year-olds, but with the unintended consequence of increasing the fatal car crash rate among 18 year-year-olds.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that since the first graduated driver programs were instituted, there have been 1,348 fewer deadly crashes involving 16-year-old drivers. At the same time, there have been 1,086 more fatal crashes that involved 18-year-olds. The net difference is still an improvement but not quite the improvement hoped.

Researchers conducting the study suspect tht the reason for the increase in deadly car crashes among 18-year-olds is that many teenagers are waiting to obtain their license to avoid the extra restrictions for 16- and 17- year old drivers. As a result, a greater proportion of inexperienced drivers hit the road at 18. California has documented an actual decrease in 16- and 17- year old drivers since institution of its tougher driving laws for teenagers.

New Jersey has implemented the toughest program which mandates that all first time drivers under the age of 21 adhere to graduated driver restrictions. New Jersey’s approach has been associated with significant reductions in the crash rates of 17- and 18- year olds and virtually eliminates crashes among 16-year olds without adversely affecting the crash rates for 19-year old drivers. However, New Jersey has noted a 10% increase in deadly car crashes in the 20- to 24- year age group suggesting that younger drivers may be waiting out the tougher restrictions.

Other researchers have found that the reason the rate of crashes among teenagers is high-accounting for 10 times as many crashes as middle-aged drivers is that they are not reckless, but that they make simple mistakes like failing to scan the road, misjudging driving conditions and becoming distracted. Lack of sleep can also be a major factor in teenage crashes according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine which found that teenagers who started school earlier in the morning had higher crash rates.

The accident and personal injury lawyers at Grazian and Volpe have advocated on behalf of the victims of motor vehicle accidents for over 25 years. Our experience in Chicago, South Chicago and Illinois has boded positive for stricter driving laws for teenagers. However, we always caution our clients that parental involvement in training teen-age drivers is crucial in assuring the development of safe driving habits. Remember, it is always better to prevent an accident, but if you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe.

Grazian & Volpe, Part of the Lloyd Miller Law Group