Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Each year, National Teen Driver Safety Week highlights safety insights for families and teens. This year, the event runs from October 18-24th. We encourage you to follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Teen Driver Source for more information. Teen Driver Source is operated by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadephia, which offers Facebook and Twitter feeds.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the greatest dangers teen drivers face are: alcohol consumption, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding and driving with passengers in the vehicle. This year, COVID-19 has introduced a new concern. Teens are driving far less and risk losing core skills. This is where National Teen Driver Safety Week comes in as an important resource this year.
Driving Safety Contract. If you follow Teen Driver Safety Week, you may learn about teen driver contracts. You can also print this parent-teen driving contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Make your own edits and ask your teen to sign as a condition for using your vehicle. Give your teen a copy of the document to file away and review. This is a good way to lay out expectations for your teens and what will happen if they violate the agreement.
Make Sure Teens Get Enough Driving Time. If teens are not driving as much during COVID-19, they risk falling behind on fundamental skills. To prevent this, encourage your teen to drive regularly. When you go out with your teen, split the driving responsibilities so you know they are logging at least some time behind the wheel and you can monitor their progress.
Hold back judgment and sharp comments if you see some of their skills have regressed. This may happen. Just help them get practice in where they need it. Take advantage of empty parking lots and slower times of the week. You can get them back on track.
Drive Around Town With Your Teen. When you can, walk and drive around your community with your teen, including during the morning and afternoon commutes. This gives your teen a preview of what may come when they pull out of the driveway alone. You may see more pedestrians and cyclists in areas. You may see parking changes and restaurants offering sidewalk service. Share observation with your teens and try to make helpful suggestions to help them drive safely and avoid car accidents.
Stress the Importance of Slowing Down. Speed is a factor in nearly 30 percent of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to AAA. Teens often have a heavy foot on the gas pedal and this only changes as they gain experience. For now, if teens can simply slow down, they can significantly reduce their risk of a collision.
Start by helping your teen recognize speed limits because they are not always posted right in front of them. While they should have learned this in driver’s ed, new drivers can use a reminder from time to time. Massachusetts sets a default speed limit of 30 mph in thickly settled and business areas, unless posted otherwise or an individual community has opted to lower the speed to 25 mph. School zones and work zones are 20 mph.
Encourage your teen to travel at or below the speed limit, especially in residential neighborhoods. By doing so, they reduce their risk of causing a car accident due to inexperience in the first few months or year of driving. They reduce their chance of causing themselves or someone else serious injuries and all the emotions and stress.
Reduce Distractions. Slowing down is the most effective tool for safe driving. It’s also important to reduce distractions. This means setting aside cell phones and limiting conversation with passengers in the vehicle. Sure, your teen is going to engage in discussion with others in the car. But try to make conversation lighter and focus more on observation, such as, “I see cars backing up at the traffic light ahead” or “there is an ambulance coming.” Save heavy discussion for before or after the drive.
Safety Steps Near Pedestrians and Cyclists. Teens may struggle to drive near pedestrians and cyclists. Every few weeks, drive through school zones and busy areas with your teen again, just as a refresher. Show them how you stop at crosswalks for pedestrians and leave room in anticipation of pedestrians. Instead of chatting at traffic lights, use this time to show your teen how to check for cyclists. More and more people have been cycling over the past decade in Massachusetts. This likely increased during COVID-19 and will likely continue. The reality is cars are not the only vehicle on the roads. Cyclists have the right to travel in the road too. You can really help your teen by teaching them to look for cyclists.
Buckling Up. Teens and young adults have the lowest rates of seat belt use, according to the CDC. Almost half of all drivers age 15-20 who died in car crashes were not wearing seatbelts in 2017, according to the CDC. During COVID-19, your teen may go long periods of time without driving or traveling in the car. Remind your teen – and all your family members – to always buckle up.
Boston and Cambridge Car Accident Lawyers – Breakstone, White & Gluck
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers have over 100 years combined experience representing those injured by negligent driving. If you have been injured in a car accident and someone else was responsible, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
When drivers use cell phones, they introduce grave dangers to the road and are more likely to crash. This is why many states have now passed distracted driving laws. But how effective have these laws been?
Highly effective, suggests new research. Distracted driving laws are saving the lives of both teen drivers and their passengers in car crashes. The greatest impact is seen when states ban all drivers from cell phone use, not just junior operators under age 18.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital published the findings from a 10-year study in Pediatrics journal. Reviewing more than 38,000 motor vehicle crashes reported between 2007 and 2017, researchers found a significant decrease in fatal motor vehicle crashes among drivers age 16-19.
There was actually a 43 percent reduction in deaths among 16-year-old drivers in states which passed hand held cell phone bans for all drivers (not just a ban for junior operators under 18).
Researchers had the challenge of working with evolving cell phone laws. When the study began in 2007, just 15 states had passed one type of distracted driving law, often a texting while driving ban. By the end, researchers were reviewing the impact of multiple bans, including texting while driving bans (both primary and secondary), hand-held bans and bans on all types of cell phone use for drivers under age 18.
Distracted Driving In Massachusetts
Massachusetts distracted driving crashes are a serious concern, having caused the deaths of drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Once drivers pick up a cell phone, it is hard to break their attention away. The younger the driver, the harder it can be and this makes it essential for teens to establish good habits from the start.
In Massachusetts, a high school student was the first to be criminally prosecuted for motor vehicle homicide, texting while driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, according to CNN. Police allege the 17-year-old Haverhill man exchanged nearly 200 text messages in the hours leading up to the fatal crash in 2011. The crash killed a 55-year-old New Hampshire driver and seriously injured his girlfriend, who was riding in his passenger seat. As the prosecutor said at sentencing, “there are no winners today.” He went onto say, “…in a split second, many lives are forever changed.”
The state of Massachusetts reported a 170 percent increase in distracted driving crashes between 2014 and 2016. Over the past few years, lawmakers and safety advocates negotiated proposals to pass a hands-free law or a ban on handheld cell phone use. This finally reached resolution in November 2019, taking effect in April.
Under the Massachusetts Hands-Free Law, drivers are no longer allowed to use hand-held cell phones. They must now use voice-activated technology. The goal is to reduce injuries by taking away the act of reaching for a phone and attempting to dial. However drivers must still use voice-activated cell phones cautiously. Drivers can still cause accidents when using voice-activated technology and can still be held liable if they cause someone’s injuries.
Teen drivers – Massachusetts junior operators under age 18 – are still not allowed to use hands-free cell phones under the new law.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys fight for the rights of those injured by negligent driving in Boston and across Massachusetts. With more than 100 years combined experience, we have a reputation for strong results for victims of car accidents, truck crashes and bus collisions.
If you have been injured, call our attorneys for a free legal consultation: 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
When your teen driver picks up the keys, you may casually say, “Have fun and be safe.” But this is when your worry sets in.
In this blog, Breakstone, White & Gluck reports on the latest research on teen drivers along with essential safety fundamentals to share with your family. Our partners each have more than 35 years of experience representing those who have been injured by negligent drivers in Boston, Cambridge and across Massachusetts. To avoid these tragedies, we encourage parents to play an even more proactive role to encourage safety during the summer months.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety “100 Deadliest Days” Study
A new study reports two-thirds of people injured or killed in car crashes involve a teen driver. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released this figure as part of its “100 Deadliest Days” report on the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes caused by teens during the summer months, according to AAA.
More than a quarter of the teen driving crashes were caused by speeding. Teens who were drinking and driving caused 17 percent of the deadly collisions while distracted driving behaviors caused 9 percent of the deaths.
- Teen drivers, age 15-18, are 17 percent more likely to cause a fatal car crash in the summer than other times of the year.
- The legal age for consuming alcohol is 21 years old in every state. Yet 1 in 6 teens involved in fatal summer crashes tested positive for alcohol.
- More than 52 percent of teens participating in AAA’s research reported they had read a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days. Another 40 percent admitted to sending one.
- As part of its research, AAA used in-vehicle dash cameras and found 58 percent of teens who caused a crash were engaged in distracted behaviors. This was four times as high as federal estimates.
Other research goes deeper, showing teen drivers crash nearly 4 times as often per mile as drivers age 20 and up (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.) The younger the driver, the more likely they are to crash due to inexperience or risky behaviors. Even a couple years can make a significant difference. For instance, the crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is 1.5 times as great as for 18- and 19-year-olds.
A few tips for your family:
Teen driving agreement. If you have never done so, now is a good time to have your child sign a teen driving agreement. Don’t just get a signature. Ask your teen to read each point out loud and ask if they understand or have any questions.
Massachusetts Junior Operator Law. Remind your teen that they have additional restrictions under the state’s junior operator law. If they violate the law, they may be cited and the infraction will go on their driving record. There is nothing you can do to help them at that point unless you plan to hire a criminal defense lawyer and attempt to challenge the citation.
For the first six months, drivers age 16 ½ to 18 cannot carry passengers under the age of 18, except for family members. The law also bans junior operators from driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. and cell phone use is not allowed for any reason. There are additional consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding or drag racing.
Drinking and Driving. Explain to your teen that there is a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving in your home. Encourage them to avoid parties where there are a large number of teens or where teens may be drinking.
At the same time, they should never get in the car with a friend who has been drinking and you will do everything you can to help them get home safely in situations involving alcohol. Come up with an emergency plan together now before there is a crisis situation.
Drive with your teen. Ask your teen to tag along when you go to the grocery store or mall. Show them how you handle the parking lot or the busy intersection where you need to watch for cyclists and pedestrians. Talk through some of the steps out loud. Then, give them the wheel on the way home.
Set a good example. Do not heavily consume alcohol and never drive if you do. Put your cell phone in the back seat when you drive. If your teen calls, say, “I was driving and couldn’t talk.” If you use a hands-free driving device, consider limiting use while your teen gets started on the road.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers have over 100 years combined experience. Our lawyers are committed to providing aggressive representation and obtaining the best possible financial results for clients – in every case. We represent clients injured by car crashes and in truck accidents in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and across Massachusetts.
For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Sept. 30 will mark three years since the state of Massachusetts strengthened its laws for teen drivers.
Under the Safe Driving law, which took effect in 2010, teen drivers age 16 ½ to 18 are banned from all cell phone use and there is no texting while driving for operators of any age. The Junior Operator Law, which was passed in 2007, bans teen drivers from carrying passengers under the age of 18, except siblings. They also cannot drive between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent.
Massachusetts is not alone; most states now have Graduated Licensing Laws restricting teen drivers in some way. In 47 states, novice drivers have passenger restrictions and 48 states limit nighttime driving. Teens are banned from all cell phone use in 37 states.
There is good reason for the laws: For each mile of roadway, teens age 15- to 20-years-old are three times more likely to die in a car accident than other drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Now is a good time to observe how well your teen driver is obeying the laws. Every year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports June, July and August see the largest number of teen driving deaths. But one nationwide company, State Farm Insurance, reports October is another dangerous time. It sees the most claims from 16- and 17-year-old drivers in this month, up 15 percent from other times.
Teen drivers get into auto accidents because they lack experience, are sensitive to distractions and do not always follow the rules. A few tips for helping your Massachusetts teen driver:
Say No to Teens Using Their Cell Phones. Many teens are texting while driving, despite the laws. In a 2011 study of 8,500 U.S. high school students age 16 and older, 45 percent admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving in just the past 30 days. The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was published in the June issue of Pediatrics Journal. These teens were more likely not to wear their seat belt.
Encourage your teen to turn their cell phone off or put it in the backseat while driving. Taking a peek at text messages, e-mails or their Facebook page is not allowed. That includes while sitting at traffic lights and intersections where they need to look out for other traffic, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
Limit Teen Passengers in the Car. Drivers under 18 in Massachusetts are not allowed to carry passengers under the age 21, except siblings. Be vigilant on this point with your teen. Among 16- and 17-year-old drivers, there is a 44 percent higher chance they will be killed in a crash with even one passenger under 21 years old, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The number multiplies with each additional passenger under 21, but decreased over 60 percent for each passenger age 35 or older.
Test Drive School Zones. Let your teen observe from the passenger seat as you drop them off to school and pick them up. You will encounter traffic, bicyclists and children walking, which will be new and potentially stressful for them as a driver (even if they traveled this area during their Driver’s Education practice hours). Point out how you adjust to the activity and decrease your speed.
If you do not drive to school, take this ride outside school hours and then let them drive. The goal is to make them aware of the challenges and make them comfortable in case they have to drive at some point.
Cyclists and Pedestrians. Remind your teen of what they learned in Driver’s Education class. Make sure they stop well behind the crosswalk at intersections and always let pedestrians pass. Remind them that cyclists can travel the full width of the road. Remind them to make sure cyclists are not approaching when they open any doors in the car.
Other Driving Safety Tips. These are the foundation of all driving safety tips, but always worth a reminder for safety’s sake: Talk to your child about always wearing a seat belt, following the speed limits and never using drugs or alcohol while operating.
The most important things are to talk to your children about driving and to set a good example yourself when they are in the car with you. Visit this web page for additional suggestions.
Teen Driver Safety Week
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, it is probably too much for teenagers to attempt to drive from Worcester to Boston, Cambridge or Quincy during rush hour alone in their first year. Work up to distance. But talk to them about shopping plaza and fast food parking lots. These are frequent stops for teenagers. But parents can help teenagers by visiting stores with them, suggesting safe areas to park and talking to them about the busy hours. By waiting an hour, teens can drive into safer conditions.
Teen driving accidents can also result from recklessness, immaturity, ignoring safety laws, driving drunk and 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 and other injuries. This behavior is dangerous anytime a vehicle is moving, even at low speeds of 5 mph.
Massachusetts has a graduated licensing law for teenagers. 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. Teens are not allowed to 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 Safety Materials from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention