March a Deadly Month for Maine Traffic Accidents Involving Teens

It’s no secret that teens are among the most at-risk population in terms of safety on the road.

Our Portland car accident lawyers know that their inexperience alone is a factor in many crashes, as is their propensity to become distracted and engage in reckless behaviors behind the wheel. When teens ride with each other, problems are exacerbated.

Now, a new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association appears to indicate we still have a long way to go in doing all we can to ensure their well-being.

The report details traffic fatalities of drivers who are 16 and 17 in the first six months of 2011 compared to the first six months of 2012. It was the second straight year that we had seen an increase, but what was especially disheartening was that the rate of increase nearly doubled – from a jump of 11 percent to an increase of nearly 20 percent.

As we approach spring break, prom and graduation, these results stand as a stark reminder that we must be ever vigilant in protecting our teens.

Of particular concern are our 16-year-olds, whose fatality rates have been increasing steadily ever since 2009 – belying the theory that the improving economy is to blame for the recent increase (though that may be true to some extent for 17-year-olds).

One of the primary risk factors for 16-year-old drivers was the presence of passengers in the vehicle. Maine has been proactive in this by prohibiting new drivers from having any passengers in their vehicle (except for family members) for the first six months after obtaining their driver’s license. Still, it’s worth noting that many other states limit the number of under-21 passengers a young driver can have until they turn 18. Maine should look into enacting similar protections.

Additionally, the intermediate stage of the graduated driver’s license program in Maine, young drivers are also barred from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. Given that the likelihood of a crash increases at night, we hope this has helped to save a number of lives in our state.

Another major risk factor for young drivers is distraction. This comes in many different forms, obviously, but cell phones and texting continue to be a huge problem. To address it, legislators in Maine have enacted a text messaging ban that prohibits all drivers – regardless of age – from texting while they are driving. It’s considered a primary offense, which means police can stop you solely for this reason. For drivers under the age of 18, cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle is also banned.

New drivers as a whole lack the practical experience to be able to handle the complex task of driving. The requirements as laid forth in driver’s education provide the basis for the minimum level of preparedness. Giving your teen more practice – with you in the passenger’s seat – is only going to serve to boost her skills and help her know how to quickly react in bad situations.

Finally, talk to your kids about the risks of driving dangerously. Teens tend to be impulsive. It’s a fact of life. But it’s certainly within the boundaries of their control if they know the serious consequences of those actions.

If you are the victim of a car accident in Portland or Bangor, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

Additional Resources:
New Study: Teen Driver Deaths Increase in 2012, Feb. 26, 2013, News Release, Governors Highway Safety Association

More Blog Entries:
Bangor Drivers: Do as I Say, Not as I Do, Feb. 11, 2013, Portland, Maine Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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