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What You Should Know about Teen Driver Safety

Posted in Car Accident on November 12, 2017

From the day they turn 16, many teens can’t wait to get their driver licenses and get the independence and freedom that comes with driving. Getting a learner permit or driver license is a major milestone in life for teens in Tennessee, but it also comes with many significant risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., and six teenagers between the age of 16 years old and 19 years old die because of injuries sustained in auto accidents every day. In addition, drivers between those ages are three times more likely than drivers 20 or older to be involved in fatal crashes. Knowing the steps of teen driving and the risks they face can help you keep your children safe when they get behind the wheel.

4 Stages of Teen Driver Licenses

Tennessee has a graduated driver licensing program, which means teen drivers don’t get full driving privileges until they’ve reached 18 years of age.

Prior to that, teens are eligible to get behind the wheel via three stages of licensure:

  1. Learner permit – Teens are eligible to receive a learner permit once they turn 15 years old. To obtain a learner permit, they must pass both a written exam and a vision screening. In addition, teens may only drive with licensed drivers who are 21 years old or older in the front passenger seat. They’re also restricted from driving between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  2. Intermediate restricted license – Teen drivers who are at least 16 years old, who pass a driving skills test—also known as a road test—and who have held learner permits for at least 180 days are eligible to receive intermediate restricted licenses. Additional restrictions include no tickets for driving offenses that add up to more than six points in the 180 days prior to applying for the license.
  3. Intermediate unrestricted license – The second-to-last stage in teen driver licensure requires being at least 17 years old and being in possession of an intermediate restricted license for at least one year. Applications must have six or fewer points on their licenses and can’t be responsible for any auto accidents. No additional written or road exams are required to receive this license.
  4. Class D driver license – Teen drivers can obtain full Class D driver licenses when they turn 18 years old, when they graduate from high school, or when they obtain GEDs—whichever occurs first. Class D driver licenses don’t have “Intermediate” printed on them, but they do say “Under 21” until the driver reaches his or her 21st birthday and applies for a new license.

As a parent, it’s important to be both supportive and corrective at all stages of teen driving. When your child has a learner permit, he or she is getting accustomed to driving and how to properly and safely operate a motor vehicle. When riding along with him or her, be encouraging but don’t be afraid to point out things he or she is doing wrong—especially if those mistakes could lead to accidents.

No matter what driving stage they’re in, you can help your child develop life-long safe driving habits by setting a good example. Always wear your seat belt, come to a complete stop at stop signs, drive at or below the speed limit, and put your phone down as soon as you get in your vehicle. Make it a point to regularly emphasize the importance of those actions and the impact they can have on driving safety.

What Are the 8 Teen Driving Danger Zones?

The CDC says that there are eight common causes of teen driving accidents that all teens and their parents should be aware of. Those causes include the following “danger zones”:

  1. Driver inexperience. Teens are at their highest risk of being in a car accident within the first year after they receive their licenses. Parents can help mitigate this risk by providing at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice.
  2. Driving with teen passengers. Whether they’re driving around with friends or siblings, teens with other teen passengers in their vehicles have a higher risk of crashing. Limit the number of friends who can ride with your teen so that he or she doesn’t violate the graduated license restrictions.
  3. Nighttime driving. The risk of an accident increases at night for everyone, not just teens. But because teens have less experience, they may be less likely to follow safe nighttime driving habits. Make sure they get off the road by 9 p.m., and supervise them when they practice driving after dark.
  4. Not buckling up. Teens may think that seat belts are uncomfortable or uncool. You can set a good example by always wearing your seat belt and by making sure your teen’s vehicle has a seat belt alarm or reminder system.
  5. Driving while distracted. Teens have more distractions than ever, including smartphones, stereo systems, in-dash GPS systems, and mobile video game systems. Teach your teen the dangers of distracted driving and restrict the usage of electronic devices to decrease their risks.
  6. Driving while drowsy. Studies show that many teens are sleep-deprived. Arrange alternative methods for your teen to get to or from work and school if he or she has trouble staying awake behind the wheel.
  7. Reckless driving. Because they may lack judgment and maturity, drivers in their teens are the most likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors. You can help them avoid those mistakes by teaching them the consequences of aggressive or risky driving.
  8. Impaired driving. Tennessee is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to underage drinking and driving. Any blood alcohol content above 0.00 is grounds for license suspension. Make sure your teen understands the dangers of impaired driving the consequences it will have on his or her future and independence.

In addition, parents should also remember that teen male drivers are twice as likely to be involved in fatal accidents as teen female drivers. The risks that both groups face increase when teen passengers are present in vehicles.

What Advanced Driving Skills Should Teens Practice?

While written and driving exams help licensing administrators determine whether a teen is ready to get behind the wheel, they’re not comprehensive, and they don’t cover every scenario they might face when they’re out on the roadway.

Skills that parents should make sure teens learn, whether via demonstrating it to their children themselves, or enrolling them in driving courses or private instruction, include:

  • Inclement weather driving – Help your child develop good driving habits for all weather types, including rain, snow, ice, and fog.
  • Interstate driving – Interstates have fewer curves and elevation changes than other roads, but increased speed limits can pose challenges. Ride along with your teen on high-speed highways and interstates until he or she is comfortable.
  • Driving near big trucks – Make sure your teen is aware of truck blind spots, including the four large “No Zones” that surround truck cabins.

Be sure to help your teen practice any aspect of driving that he or she feels uncomfortable with, including routine driving tasks such as parking, backing up, or turning.

Matt Hardin Law Fights for the Rights of Teen Auto Accident Victims

While it’s true that teen drivers face risks due to their own inexperience, they also face risks due to the behaviors of other drivers. Because teens lack hours behind the wheel, they may be less capable of avoiding accidents or aggressive drivers, increasing their risk of being seriously injured.

If your child was hurt in a crash that was caused by a negligent driver, the Nashville auto accident lawyers at Matt Hardin Law want to help. We’ve fought for the rights of injured victims throughout the mid-state area for more than 30 years. Call us at (615) 200-1111 or complete an online form today for a free consultation.