Maine Teen Drivers Fail to Obey GDL Laws, With Fatal Consequences

A 16-year-old girl behind the wheel during an October crash in Bucksport has been charged in the death of her 15-year-old friend, a passenger in the vehicle when it veered off the road and into a tree. girls1

Allegations in this case are that the teen violated¬† Maine’s graduated driver’s licensing laws, designed to help protect motorists and teens from the common risks of young drivers. Our car accident attorneys in Bangor know it’s a critical safety message heading into graduation and the start of the summer travel season.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s also National Alcohol Awareness Month. Tragedies like this are a stark reminder that risky driving behaviors result in real tragedies. GDL laws are in effect for a reason, and parents must do everything they can to ensure teen drivers are following the rules.

According to news reports, the 16-year-old Bucksport driver has been charged with aggravated driving to endanger and manslaughter. She will likely be tried as a juvenile.

On the evening of the crash, the two attended a dinner held at the high school in honor of football players and cheerleaders. The crash happened at 6:22 p.m., and the passenger was pronounced dead at the hospital. The driver survived. There is no indication that alcohol was a factor.

According to Maine law, 16-year-old drivers are only permitted to have an intermediate license. That means that they are barred from carrying any passengers who are not an immediate family member unless that passenger is over the age of 20 and has had a valid license for at least two years.

A recent report by the Bangor Daily News reveals that in a number of recent teen driving fatalities in Maine, the drivers were not following graduated driver’s license laws.

In another case, also in October, three teen boys were injured after the 16-year-old driver struck a tree in Levant. Two had to be hospitalized.

In yet another case, a 16-year-old and Hiram was killed when her vehicle struck a tree. Her two teen passengers were hurt, but survived.

Authorities say it’s very difficult for police to enforce the intermediate license law because an officer is usually unable to tell if the driver is 16 or 18 or whether the passengers are related.

While the Maine Department of Transportation reports that overall fatal crashes have fallen in Maine (163 in 2012 versus 202 in 2003), a study conducted in 2012 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that teen drivers are nearly 45 percent more likely to be involved in a deadly wreck if they are carrying another teen passenger. The likelihood of a fatality increases with every additional teen passenger while a teen driver is behind the wheel.

In addition to the passenger restrictions, Maine’s GDL laws prohibit drivers under 18 from operating a motor vehicle between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. and operating a vehicle using a handheld device, including a cell phone.

Because the GDL laws are so tough to enforce, the onus falls on parents to be proactive. The state department of transportation encourages parents to:

  • Use driver’s education courses, and set a good example.
  • Know the law.
  • Restrict the number of passengers and night driving.
  • Actively supervise your teen’s practice driving.
  • Require seat belt use and make it clear that alcohol use behind the wheel is strictly forbidden.
  • Choose a vehicle that has a proven safety record.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Driver in Bucksport crash that killed teen passenger charged with manslaughter, April 10, 2014, By Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Deadly Teen Crash in Maine has Investigators Searching for Clues, March 26, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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