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Teen Traffic Deaths Decline But Young Drivers at High Risk

April 29, 2013

On March 17, 2013, the Chicago Tribune published an article on teen traffic deaths in Illinois. The Tribune discussed a decline in the number of car accident deaths, as well as the positive effects of the graduated licensing law that went into effect in 2008. However, the article also pointed out that the improvements in cutting teen fatalities are just a start and that there is still a long way to go.

Auto accidents remain the number one cause of death of teen drivers, and young drivers ages 15-19 make 70 percent more insurance claims for car accidents than drivers in any other five-year age group. Our Chicago, IL accident lawyers also know that studies have shown teens are more likely to text and drive than adults and that only 54 percent of teens responding to a survey said they always wore seat belts.

While their inexperience combined with their propensity to take driving risks will always increase the chance of a crash for teen drivers, parents can help to keep kids safe by talking to their children and setting ground rules for safe driving.

Teen Driving and Auto Accidents in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune reported the positive news that there has been a decline of almost 60 percent in the number of teen deaths in car accidents from 2007 to 2012. The decline may in large part be driven by graduated licensing rules put into effect in 2008 to ease the transition into full driving. The graduated licensing rules, among other things, limit how many passengers can be in the car with a teen driver in order to reduce distractions and to help deter kids from taking unnecessary risks.

Unfortunately, the Tribune also indicates that the laws are imperfect and hard to enforce, and that teen accidents still happen routinely. In fact, one tragic accident resulted in the deaths of four teenagers in Will County on the Monday before the article was published.  The four teenagers in the auto accident were between ages 14 and 17 and were violating the graduated licensing law, which holds that drivers under 18 may have only one passenger in the car with them at a time until they had their licenses for at least a year. In this accident, four teens were packed into one car, only one of whom had his license (which had just been obtained in June).

The cause of the Monday accident was still being investigated, with weather a potential contributing factor. Still, if fewer young people had been in the car then fewer young lives would have been cut short.

Parents Need to Enforce the Rules

According to the Tribune Article, police are not always able to effectively enforce the graduated licensing laws because they cannot be everywhere all the time and because it can be difficult to tell how old the kids are in a car. The Tribune suggests that parents should play the primary role in enforcing rules on the number of passengers in the car.

Parents should also talk to their kids about speeding; texting and driving; drowsy driving; drunk driving and other dangerous behaviors. If parents set rules for their kids and regularly discuss the risks of dangerous driving, hopefully kids will make safer choices. Teen drivers who don’t follow safe driving rules endanger not only themselves but also their passengers and innocent strangers who happen to be on the road with them at the same time.

If you were injured in a traffic accident in the Chicago, Illinois area, contact Coplan + Crane at 800-394-6002 or visit our Oak Park office.