This Valentine’s Day, let your teens know you love them by paying attention to how they drive. Do you know
- when they drive?
- where they drive?
- who they drive with?
- what they do when they drive?
To prevent car crashes involving teen drivers, California has a graduated driver license law that restricts when a teen may drive and who can be in the car. Car accidents are the number one killer of teenagers. According to studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the car crash death rate per mile for teens aged 16-19 is approximately three times that rate for drivers aged 20 and older.
Inexperience, influence of peers in the car, and incomplete brain develop all contribute to the high death rate related to teen driving. Research and anecdotal information from car accident attorneys point to these contributors to teen driving accidents. Teens aren’t the only ones dying in crashes with teen drivers—more than 60% of people hurt or killed in a wreck with a teen driver are not the driver.
Incomplete brain development means that teens’ brains are still developing. Human brains are not fully developed until the mid- to late-twenties, and one of the last parts to develop is the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for thoughtful decision-making, impulse control, and understanding long-term consequences. Teen brains are wired for risk-taking. Taking risks and enjoying the rush of risk-taking behavior are a normal part of teen development. At the same time that teens are primed for risk-taking, their ability to control impulses and focus on the sequence of events that can follow the risks is not mature. That results in teens’ feeling like negative outcomes like death following speeding will never happen to them.
California’s graduated driver license law tries to minimize the risks from adolescent brain development, inexperience, and peer influence by creating safety mechanisms around teen drivers. First, to help teens gain experience, teens must complete a driver education course, they can only drive with an adult age 25 or older in the car, and they must drive for at least 50 hours over not less than six months before moving from a learner’s permit to a provisional license. At least ten of those 50 hours must occur at night.
A learner’s permit can be obtained at 15 ½ years of age. The provisional license applies to teens between ages 16 and 18. With a provisional license, a teen can drive without an adult but not with any passengers younger than age 20 unless there is also a driver aged 25 or older in the car (with some exceptions). This addresses the risk of peer influence while driving. The presence of additional teens in a car drastically increases the likelihood of a deadly car crash.
A provisional license also restricts the time when a teen can drive. Driving between 11pm and 5am is prohibited, with some exceptions for work and school. Other restrictions with a provisional license include no alcohol in the vehicle and absolutely no use of cell phones and personal electronic devices. After 12 months of a provisional license, or when a teen turns 18, the teen can get a full license. However, some restrictions may still apply.
Driving a car is a privilege and an enormous responsibility. Close to 3,300 people die every day in auto accidents on America’s roads. That is almost 1.3 million people a year. An additional 20-50 million people are hurt in car accidents yearly. Parents and teens should approach driving as the serious task that it is.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an automobile wreck, call the car accident attorneys at Cerritos Legal today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.