As summer stretches on, teenagers are on the search for ways to spend their newfound free time. Those with their license are eager to get behind the wheel and drive around with friends. But we all must remember the risks they pose to themselves and others so we can try to take precautions.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in Massachusetts and across the country. In 2009, eight teenagers ages 16 to 19 died each day from motor vehicle injuries. When teenagers survive accidents, they may be left to cope with painful injuries that require years of recovery. And others are likely to be seriously injured as well.
The majority of teen car accidents happen within the first year a teen holds a license. The risk increases when teens drive with their friends or when they drive at night. While many associate drowsy driving with truck drivers, teen drivers are also likely to drive with sleep deprivation, increasing the likelihood of car accidents.
Many auto accidents result from driver inexperience. Because of this, teen drivers should stay on familiar roads for a few years. For example, a teenager from Framingham should not attempt to drive in Boston, Cambridge or Quincy.
But many teen driving mistakes are the result of recklessness, immaturity, ignoring safety laws, driving drunk, driving while distracted. Distracted driving behavior includes driving to loud music, being overly involved in conversations with friends, eating and drinking, talking on a cell phone and texting while driving.
The reckless behavior includes drag racing and car surfing on the exterior of a motor vehicle.
This thrill-seeking behavior often leads to teens falling off the car and suffering head injuries. This behavior is dangerous anytime a vehicle is moving, even at low speeds of 5 mph.
Massachusetts has a graduated licensing law addressing concern over teen car accidents. Operators must hold a driver’s permit for six months before applying for a Junior Operator’s License at 16 1/2. They graduate up to a full license at 18.
For the first six months of holding a license, junior operators cannot ride with anyone under 18 in the car, except for family members. Among the other rules is teens cannot use cell phones or drive between the hours of 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m.They face stiff penalties if caught operating under the influence of alcohol.
The state has a strong law, but parents must speak to their teens before and after they receive their license about concentrating on the road, wearing seat belts and using good judgment when driving or riding as a passenger. Because teens are out of school and looking for things to do, summer is the most important time of year to have this discussion.
Resources for Parents
Teen Driving Tips for Parents from the National Safety Council
The Massachusetts motor vehicle accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck are experienced handling cases involving roadway accidents, including car accidents, truck accidents and bus accidents. We bring over 80 years combined experience to clients. We serve clients throughout Massachusetts, including Greater Boston, Cambridge and Quincy. We also serve clients in the Lowell, Framingham and Worcester regions.