Teen Drivers & Auto Accidents
It’s a commonly accepted belief that teenagers think they’re immortal and invincible. Someone just on the cusp of adulthood, who is tasting new freedoms for the first time such as driving a car, often doesn’t comprehend the reality that life is fragile and can be changed in an instant. Because of that, teen drivers often aren’t as careful on the road as adults — and that lack of a sense of mortality and maturity can lead to tragic consequences.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, and teens are more likely than adults to get into car crashes. Thousands of teens die in car accidents every year, and nearly 300,000 nationwide are treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teenagers and young adults make up 14 percent of the national population, but account for 28 to 30 percent of the costs of car crash injuries.
Teens also have the lowest rate of seat belt among any age group, with just 55 percent of high school students reporting that they use one when they ride in a vehicle. Failing to use seat belts can mean that teen drivers and passengers experience more severe injuries and a higher rate of fatalities when a car crashes.
But it isn’t only the teen at risk when a teen driver gets behind the wheel and causes a collision. A car accident may injure other drivers, passengers, bicyclists, or pedestrians — and since alcohol and/or speed often are factors in auto collisions caused by teen drivers, injuries can be very serious for other people involved.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by a teen driver, you may have a personal injury claim that may allow you to receive compensation for your injuries and other damages stemming from the accident. You may be able to recover your medical costs, lost wages, and payment for your pain and suffering, any disability or disfigurement you experienced, and your loss of normal life. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you figure out your options for proceeding with a claim, and represent you in negotiations or a lawsuit to get you a fair settlement or jury verdict.
Common Causes of Teen Crashes
When teen drivers get behind the wheel, there are a number of common factors that lead to crashes. Many of them relate to a teen driver’s relative immaturity and inexperience on the road. Among the most common factors in crashes caused by teen drivers are:
- Driving Under the Influence
- Excessive Speeding
- Talking or Texting While Driving
- Driver Inexperience
- Reckless Driving
- Drowsy Driving
- Nighttime Driving
Illinois Teen Driving Laws
Illinois has implemented laws that restrict teen driving in several ways in an effort to ensure that teens acquire the experience they need to drive safely once their driving privileges are fully vested. One key way that Illinois does this is through a graduated driver’s license that allows teens to have limited driving privileges initially and acquire greater privileges over time until they get a full driver’s license once they’re over age 18. The steps a teen must go through to get driving privileges include:
- Permit Phase — A teen driver can get a learner’s permit at age 15 with consent from a parent or guardian. The teen has to enroll in a driver education course and pass a written test and vision check. The teen has to keep the learner’s permit for at least 9 months and practice driving for at least 50 hours, including 10 hours at night. Driving practice has to be supervised by a parent or another adult over 21 who has a valid driver’s license. Teens with learner’s permits are restricted from driving between 10 pm and 6 am Sunday through Thursday, and 11 pm to 6 am Friday and Saturday. A teen with a learner’s permit cannot get any driving convictions during the 9-month period, must use a seat belt, and is barred from texting while driving or using a cell phone without a hands-free device.
- Initial License Phase — If the teen has met the requirements of the permit phase, he or she can get an initial license at age 16 or 17. To get an initial driver’s license, the teen needs written consent from a parent or guardian, who has to certify that the required number of practice hours have been completed. The teen also must have completed a driver education course. During the initial license phase, the teen has the same nighttime driving restrictions as during the permit phase, and same restrictions regarding texting or talking while driving. There also is a limit on the number of passengers a 16- or 17-year-old driver can have in a vehicle. If the teen gets any driving-related conviction while he or she has an initial license, restrictions may extend beyond age 18.
- Full License Phase — Once the teen turns 18, he or she can get a full Illinois driver’s license as long as requirements of the initial license phase were met. Drivers under 19 continue to be prohibited from cell phone use without a hands-free device. If the teen didn’t take a driving course in high school, he or she must complete an adult driving course before getting a full license.
Liability in Teen Car Accidents
Any driver in Illinois must have car insurance with certain minimum dollar amounts of coverage, and that includes teenagers. Teen drivers typically will have coverage through their parents’ car insurance policies instead of buying policies of their own. In Illinois, drivers must have minimum liability coverage of $20,000 for bodily injury per person per accident, and $40,000 total bodily injury coverage per accident. They also must have a minimum of $15,000 in property damage coverage.
In many cases, even though the teen is covered by the parent’s insurance policy, the teen’s parents won’t themselves be liable for any injuries or damage that results when a teen causes a car accident. However, Illinois courts have said that parents may be liable if the teen is driving on family business, such as being sent to the grocery store by the parent.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine who might be liable for the injuries you suffered because of a teen driver’s negligence, and diligently pursue your options for compensation. Contact Chicago car accident lawyer Jared Staver at (312) 236-2900 for a free legal consultation.