Car accidents involving teen drivers are heart-breaking for lawyers as much as parents. Accidents resulting in fatality, especially, place a great weight the shoulders of everyone involved. There’s no way to turn around such a tragic situation. Is there a particular way parents should react to teen driver accidents? Yes! By being absolutely proactive with their kids’ driver education.
A study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) placed Tennessee 8th of all 50 states in the number of teen driver accident fatalities. This problem isn’t contained just within our state lines, though. Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for teens nationwide. America’s youngest drivers (those 16–19 years old) are involved in three times the number of fatal accidents as all other drivers. The reason: driver inexperience and distractions.
In 1999, there were 221 fatal crashes caused by teen drivers here in Tennessee, but that number has been declining steadily. Thanks to programs from the Tennessee Department Transportation (TDOT) and the Department of Safety, teen car accident fatalities dropped to 115 in 2009.
One program, Under YOUR Influence, from NHTSA and our own Department of Safety, reinforces the one influence teens drive under every day, and it’s an influence that doesn’t have to be bad.
Parents already have a big responsibility on their shoulders when it comes to guiding their kids into adulthood. But, teaching them to be safe drivers is education that will stay with them for a lifetime. This is one area in which parents can’t teach via a “do as I say, not as I do” technique.
Fortunately in Tennessee, parents have an effective law as back up for “do as I say.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study about teen drivers in their September journal. For the study, a research team reviewed a large pool of car accidents between 1986 and 2007, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. All of those accidents had resulted in the fatality of a teen driver. Through the study, though, researchers discovered the states with the toughest graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs had the fewest fatal car accidents caused by 16–year–old drivers.
Tennessee has a strong GDL program. Here, 16–year–olds are not allowed to drive between the hours of 11 p.m.–6 a.m., nor are they allowed to drive with more than one passenger. Full driving privileges don’t go into effect until they turn 17.
The GDL program has proven effective to saving teen lives, but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t grab the reigns of their kid’s driver education. Teen drivers are still kids, even if they say they’re not. Teens are inexperienced with life as much as they are with cars. Parental guidance and restrictions on driving allow them to slowly build their knowledge before they even know they need it.
Curfews in Chattanooga and surrounding areas vary somewhat from state regulations. Teen drivers must adhere to local curfew laws in Chattanooga and Lakeside where curfew is the same as state law except on Friday and Saturday when there is no driving between midnight and 6 a.m. Also, in Soddy-Daisy, curfew falls between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Always refer to city ordinances before letting a teen drive after dark.