A 17-year-old from Bucksport entered the equivalent of a guilty plea in juvenile court to a manslaughter charge after her engagement in a drag race resulted in a crash that killed her 15-year-old friend. The vehicle veered out of control and struck a tree.
The victim, a popular student and cheerleader at Bucksport High School, was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to the hospital. The incident occurred last October, just minutes after the friends left a dinner hosted for student cheerleaders and football players. The driver, then 16, was seriously injured, but survived.
Our Bangor car accident attorneys know this crash, as horrific as it was, has the potential to serve as a stark reminder of the dangers teens face behind the wheel – an especially timely message as we enter the school year. Many students are entrusted for the first time with regular use of a vehicle to go back-and-forth to classes and various after-school functions. It’s imperative that parents remain involved, and ensure teens are following their own rules, as well as the law.
In this case, the 15-year-old should never have been in the vehicle in the first place because the driver only had her immediate driver’s license. According to Maine’s graduated driver’s license law, that meant the driver was not allowed to be accompanied by any passenger who was not an immediate family member, unless that passenger was over the age of 20 and had a valid driver’s license for at least the last two years.
For teens, especially new drivers between the ages of 16 and 17, the risk of a crash substantially increases with every additional passenger, as recently reported by the Bangor Daily News. According to figures from the AAA Foundation for traffic safety, the crash risk for this cohort jumps by 44 percent when there is one passenger under age 21 in the vehicle. It doubles when there are two passengers under the age of 21. When there are three or more passengers under 21 in the car, the chances quadruple.
Also noteworthy, the risk of crash drops by 62 percent when there is a licensed adult over age 35 in the car with the teen.
The Bucksport case is just one example. Just two weeks later, a 16-year-old Hiram girl was killed after she struck a tree. Her two teen passengers were injured, but survived. Two weeks after that, two of three teen boys were seriously hurt after the car they were in also struck a tree.
The Bucksport teen, after an admission of guilt before a juvenile court judge, was sentenced to 30 days in a juvenile detention center (with all but 10 days suspended), and she will be required to remain on juvenile probation until the age of 19. There is a possibility she will have to return to jail if she violates her probation. Additionally, her driver’s license is suspended for the next five years.
At the hearing, the teen for the first time acknowledged she had been drag racing with two teen boys who had also just attended the same dinner. The four were all headed back to the 15-year-old girl’s home, which was just five miles away from the high school. An accident reconstruction team concluded the vehicle was traveling 75 miles-per-hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone at the time of the crash.
The teens initially denied they were racing.
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.
Bucksport teen gets 10 days in manslaughter case for 15-year-old classmate’s death, Aug. 29, 2014, By Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News
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Bangor Injury Lawyers Must Often Fight for Uninsured Motorist Coverage, July 17, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog