Articles Posted in Inexperienced Drivers

It should come as no surprise that inexperienced drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of Maryland car accidents. Indeed, according to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, there are approximately 15,800 accidents caused by motorists between the ages of 16 and 20 each year, resulting in about 87 deaths per year. This accounts for roughly 16% of all of the traffic fatalities in Maryland.

Muddy Car AccidentMaryland lawmakers have implemented a graduated licensing program to help ensure that those who drive on Maryland roads are properly educated and have the requisite amount of experience before getting behind the wheel on their own. First, new drivers must obtain a learner’s permit, and then a provisional license. And finally, assuming the new driver has passed all of the required tests and has been free of a traffic conviction, the new driver will be given a driver’s license.

While new drivers do have to jump through a number of hoops before they are able to obtain their license in Maryland, the fact remains that new drivers frequently cause car accidents. This may be due to a lack of experience, questionable judgment, distraction, or intoxication. In any case, the law does not excuse a driver from liability merely because they are new to driving. Those who have been injured in a Maryland car accident caused by a young or inexperienced driver may be able to pursue a personal injury claim to seek compensation related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

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In order to safely operate a car or truck, the driver must exhibit skill, patience, and good judgment while on the road. When drivers fail to exercise the appropriate level of caution while behind the wheel, the chance of causing a serious or fatal accident greatly increases. Drivers with little experience, particularly minor children, cause a disproportionate number of accidents. In fact, while teen drivers make up only a small percentage of the overall number of motorists, they are responsible for over 12% of all traffic accidents.

Missing HeadlightWhen a minor causes a car accident, certain legal considerations arise regarding the accident victim’s ability to receive compensation for their injuries. As a general rule, those under 18 years of age are considered minors. Maryland law places limits on when minors and their parents can be held responsible for certain conduct. For example, the parents of a minor can be held responsible to pay for damages caused by their child’s willful misconduct.

Generally speaking, parents are not liable for the negligent actions of their children because “kids will be kids.” However, there is an exception under Maryland law when the minor negligently causes a motor vehicle accident. In this situation, the parent or guardian who co-signed the minor’s driver’s license application can be held financially responsible for any injuries that occurred as a result of the minor’s negligence.

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Earlier this month, a new report was released regarding the dangerous driving habits of teens who use cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The study, commissioned by State Farm, reported that teens who admit to driving while using a smartphone are more likely to also engage in other dangerous driving habits, such as driving under the influence, speeding, and failing to wear a seatbelt. According to an industry news source discussing the new report, more than 80% of interviewed teens admit to using their phones while behind the wheel.

Winding RoadThe study looked at a group of about 1,000 teens aged 16 to 19 years old, and it relied on the teens to self-report their driving habits. The study yielded other interesting statistics. For instance, teens who have been involved in a recent accident were three times more likely to admit to using their cellphones while driving. Additionally, these teens are not just talking and texting on their phones. Many teens reported that they would watch videos, browse the internet, or play games while driving.

Most teens explained that they knew using a phone while behind the wheel was dangerous, but they claimed that it was a “habit” and that they wanted to keep in touch with their friends. In most cases, teens who did admit to using their phones while driving told researchers that their parents also occasionally used their phones while driving. The study claims that teens model their driving habits after parents and that parents have an obligation to practice safe driving in front of their children.

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Over the past few years, states across the country have made a concerted effort to increase the safety of young drivers through the three-tier Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) programs. Currently, all 50 states have some form of GDL program in effect, requiring young drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 to obtain various milestone achievements in one license tier before being moved to the next licensing tier. Each tier offers young drivers more freedom, but the program ends at age 18.

Damaged Red CarAccording to one national insurance news report discussing the efficacy of the GDL programs, the implementation of the programs has led to a 30% decrease in fatal accident involving teens between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. Despite the program’s success with younger drivers, the report notes that drivers ages 18-20 still suffer from high accident rates. Part of the problem, the article claims, is the fact that one in three drivers do not even obtain a learner’s permit until after the age of 18, effectively removing them from the strictures of the program. This age group contains those who are perhaps the most likely to be talking on the phone or texting while driving, both of which are illegal in Maryland.

According to the report, the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration is recommending that the program include all drivers under the age of 21. Maryland is on the cutting edge of the move toward stricter driver training laws, requiring all novice drivers – regardless of age – to complete 30 hours of classroom training as well as six hours of training behind the wheel. However, despite the efforts of lawmakers, inexperienced drivers will still continue to cause a large percentage of the serious and fatal car accidents across Maryland.

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Driving is a privilege that many people take for granted. It used to be that not everyone needed a driver’s license. However, in today’s society, with urban sprawl an ever-increasing reality, even young drivers need a license to get to and from school and work. These young drivers, while they are required to attend a driver’s education course and pass applicable practical tests, do not always possess the judgment and real-world experience necessary to safely operate motor vehicles in all conditions.

Curved RoadIndeed, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, young drivers aged 15-25 represent only 14% of the total driving population, but they end up being involved in over 30% of the total accidents. Interestingly, there are several contributing factors that experts cite when explaining the heightened dangers:

  • Speeding is involved in about 35% of all teen-driver crashes.
  • The presence of at least one male passenger in the car increases the likelihood of an accident.
  • Alcohol is involved in 25% of accidents involving teens.
  • Teens are less likely to wear their seat-belts, increasing the severity of the injuries suffered in most of the accidents.

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