Teen Drivers’ Car Accident Risk and Liability

teen drivers

When a car accident is over and you have to deal with the other driver, whether you are still at the scene or after you have received medical treatment, you expect to come face to face with an adult. You assume the other driver will be a somewhat experienced driver with insurance. But the truth is the other driver involved in the collision might be quite young. You could have crashed with someone who has had their license for a matter of months and has little to no experience with the financial, medical, and insurance consequences of an auto accident. When this happens, you might wonder how to proceed. Do you treat the teen the same as any other adult? Do you take a less harsh stance in attempting to recover for your injuries? The truth may seem harsh, but a new or young driver is just as responsible for his or her actions behind the wheel as an adult or experienced driver. If you were injured because of a teen driver, call the experienced Augusta auto accident lawyers of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. for a consultation about your situation.  

Teen Accident Statistics


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 account for only 14 percent of all drivers, but they manage to represent 30 percent of auto accident injury costs for men and 28 percent of total costs from accident injuries for women. Overall, teens are simply more likely to get into a car accident that leads to injuries and fatalities than adults. In fact, 16 to 19 year olds are almost three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than drivers over the age of 20. The risk of a dangerous accident increases when a teen driver has passengers in the car and it rises even more when those passengers are other teens.

Between 2007 and 2011 in Georgia, anywhere from 148 to 284 drivers under the age of 21 were involved in fatal crashes, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia. There were 156 fatalities for drivers aged 20 or under in 2013. The current prospective target for young driver fatalities in 2016 is 141.

Causes of Teen Crashes


There are many reasons behind teen crashes. Some simple reasons are that young drivers are less experienced and less capable of noticing hazards because of their underdeveloped reasoning skills. All drivers develop better driving and recognition skills over time. Teens have not had time yet.

Teens are also incredibly susceptible to distractions. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found moderate-to-severe teen crashes are caused by distraction six out of 10 times. Much more often than previously thought. According to the study, the distractions that most often led to a crash, in order of occurrence, were:

  • Interacting with one or more passengers (15 percent);
  • Cell phone use (12 percent);
  • Looking at something in the car (10 percent);
  • Looking at something outside of the car (nine percent);
  • Singing, dancing, or moving to music (eight percent);
  • Grooming (six percent); and
  • Reaching for something in the car (six percent).

Additionally, teenagers are at risk for driving after drinking or taking drugs. In 2013, the CDC found 17 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 who were involved in a fatal crash had BACs at 0.08 percent or higher. Many teens admit to drinking alcohol before driving or getting into the car with a teen driver who they know has been drinking.

Georgia’s Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act


A major portion of TADRA is that the state has a graduated license program for young drivers. Georgia established a multistep license system for 15 to 18 year olds that requires a three-step process for an individual to get a full license without restrictions.

The first step for a new driver in Georgia is to obtain a learner’s permit. On this permit, a young driver must always be accompanied by someone over the age of 21 who has a valid license.

The second license is the intermediate provisional license. Applications are either 16 or 17 years old, have had a permit for up to one year, have not had any major traffic violations, and successfully pass the road test. There are numerous restrictions on this license, which is crucial to understand if you were hit by a teen driver. He or she may have been violating a provisional license. A teen on this type of license cannot drive between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.. For six months he or she cannot have a passenger who is younger than 21 unless it is a family member. After this period of time, the driver cannot have more than three passengers who are under the age of 21.

The last and final step is to obtain a full license at 18 years of age and not having any major traffic violations in a year.

If you are hit by a teen, your attorney will investigate the situation to determine what license he or she had and if he or she was in accordance with TADRA.

Who is Liable in a Teen-Caused Crash?


If your collision was caused by a teenager, he or she is just as responsible as any other adult. Being an adolescent, inexperienced, or on a provisional license does not lessen a person’s responsibility behind the wheel or liability if he or she causes an accident.

Like all drivers, the teen should have auto insurance that you will work with first to try and recover. If it is not possible to fully recover under the teen’s auto insurance policy, or he or she did not have auto insurance, you may have to sue the young driver. This can seem frustrating because a teenager is unlikely to have the money to help you truly recover. However, a judgment against someone can last seven years if properly filed and can be renewed. This enables you to recover from the teen in the future.  

Potential Parental Responsibility


In very rare cases, an adolescent’s parents may also be responsible for your injuries. Under the state’s negligent entrustment theory, parents can be responsible for a teen’s crash if they gave the teen the vehicle to use and knew or should have known that the adolescent was not competent to safely drive the vehicle. But what is knowledge or what does it mean that a parent “should know” of the risk? Knowledge can come from the teen being in an accident before or being ticketed multiple times for dangerous driving maneuvers.

Another option for parental liability is the family purpose doctrine. Under this theory, parents are liable for your damages if they let the teen use the car for the pleasure, purpose, or convenience of the family members.

These doctrines may not be relevant to your case, but you never know until your personal injury lawyer thoroughly investigates your crash.

Contact an Augusta Personal Injury Attorney for Help


If you were hit by a teen driver, call the experienced auto accident attorneys of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A.  immediately. Recovering in this type of situation can be tricky and by working with a skilled personal injury attorney in Augusta GA who has handled these types of cases before, a weight is lifted from your already burdened shoulders.