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Risks to Maine’s Teenage Drivers

forest-road---hdr-1319712-m.jpgTeens are more often killed in car crashes than they are by anything else. The first American peer-to-peer program called Teens in the Driver Seat has noted that over 3,000 U.S. teens die every year in car crashes –equivalent to a commercial jet full of teens crashing once every other week for a year. This doesn’t include the many more teens who are injured but survive crashes.

According to Teens in the Driver Seat, the top five hazards for novice drivers are: night driving, speeding, distractions, low seat belt use, and alcohol. Recently, Texas A&M Transportation Institute released a study that analyzed ten years of national traffic data. The patterns for novice drivers were compared with young adults drivers to determine a “relative risk index.” This shows that the nation’s youngest drivers face a greater risk than novice drivers generally.

The study shows 15 to 17-year-old drivers are nearly eight times more likely to get into an accident that results in death when driving with two or more adolescent passengers. How was this figure reached? The relative risk for a novice driver with a teen passenger went up from 3.7 to 5.1 — by 2011, novice drivers in fatal crashes were five times more likely to have a young passenger than young adult drivers were. The connection went up 7.7 times for those carrying two or more teen passengers.

Researchers found that from 2002-2011, the number of fatal accidents involving teen drivers decreased by 60% overall, but the percentage of fatalities occurring when other teens were in the car increased every year. The 30% increase in deaths when other teens are present coincided with the explosion of text messaging across the United States. Russell Henk who wrote the Texas A&M study suspects there is a connection.

The study also notes that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for assessing risk and determining the potential consequences, is not fully developed in teens. In fact, the prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop fully until age 25. This, coupled with their limited driving experience, may lead to more risk-taking behavior. The overall lack of experience means that teens are more likely to get distracted while driving.

The data was collected during a period when many states were implementing or strengthening their graduated driver’s license systems. In Maine, there is a 3-step graduated driver’s license system for drivers under the age of 18 and under the age of 21.

In Maine, drivers under the age of 21 are prohibited from using a cell phone while operating with a permit. Similarly, those who have a learner’s permit may not use a cell phone while operating with a permit. Drivers under the age of 18 receive an intermediate license, rather than a regular’s driver’s license. This prevents them from carrying anyone other than immediate family members, except when accompanied by a license-holder with particular qualifications. They may not drive between 12 a.m.-5 a.m.

These restrictions in Maine eliminate some, but not all, of the risks identified by the Texas A&M study. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, you should talk to a knowledgeable Maine personal injury attorney before talking to the insurer for the other car. Our attorneys have more than 50 years of combined experience representing people who suffered a serious or life-threatening injury in Maine. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Study Claims Drivers in Maine and Across the U.S. Are Distracted More Than They Realize, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 13, 2013
One Hurt in Negligent York County Traffic Wreck, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 7, 2013