What Happens When a Teen Driver Is Involved in an Auto Accident?

Teen drivers are generally at the greatest risk of auto accidents. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens and, per mile driver, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

Risk Factors for Teen Drivers

Fortunately, many of the risk factors for teen driving accidents are preventable and there are several things that can be done to help prevent teen traffic accidents. Parents should be aware of the following risk factors for teen drivers, and ways that they can encourage safe driving habits.

  • Teen passengers. Research shows that when a teen driver has peers in the car, the risk of serious crash increases significantly. In fact, according to the AAA Foundation, a teen driver with just one teen passenger is 44% more likely to be in a fatal auto accident. Accordingly, parents may want to limit the number of passengers that a teen driver is permitted to have in the car while he or she is driving. In fact, Illinois law limits the number of passengers to one person under age 20 (unless the passenger(s) is a sibling or child of the driver) for the first year of licensed driving or until the driver is 18, whichever occurs first.
  • Driving at night. Research shows that teens driving at night have a higher incidence of auto accidents than during the daylight hours. Accordingly, parents may want to limit a teen’s use of the car to daytime hours until his or her driving ability has increased. Under Illinois law, teen drivers between the ages of 16-17 are prohibited from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Inexperience. Before a teenager can obtain his or her driver’s license in Illinois, a parent must certify that the teen has completed at least 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours of nighttime driving. In addition to the minimum legal requirements for obtaining a license, however, parents should encourage their teen to get as much as driving experience as possible with a responsible adult in the vehicle.
  • Speeding. Speeding is the third leading cause of fatal auto accidents, and male teens are especially susceptible to speeding risks. Parents should encourage your teens to always drive within the speed limit.
  • DistractionsDistracted driving occurs any time a driver’s attention is diverted from the task of driving. Distracted driving often involves texting and cell phone use, but it can also include changing the radio station, eating, or talking to other passengers. Illinois law prohibits the use of all handheld cell phones while driving.
  • Seat belts. Teens use seat belts less often than drivers of any other age and, in 2011, nearly three out of five fatal auto accidents involved a teen who was not wearing a seat belt. Parents should instruct their children to always wear a seat belt, both as a driver and as a passenger, regardless of the distance travelled.
  • Alcohol and drugs. According to MADD, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, with nearly one-quarter of traffic fatalities involving alcohol or drugs. Illinois has a Zero Tolerance Law, which provides that minors (individuals under the age of 21) can have their driving privileges suspended for having a BAC of .01 or greater.

Liability for Auto Accidents involving a Teen Driver

In most situations, a teen driver will have auto insurance coverage under his or her parents’ policy. If that is not the case, however, you may still be able to obtain financial recovery under your uninsured/underinsured motorist provisions. In any event, teen auto accidents often involve complex issues regarding liability, damages, and insurance coverage so it is advisable to consult with an auto accident lawyer who understands these legal issues.

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Cogan & Power, P.C. are well-equipped to handle the legal complexities of auto accident lawsuits involving teen drivers and we will fight to get you the maximum financial recovery possible. Contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago auto accident attorneys.