New drivers have a reputation for being poor drivers. They are inexperienced. They are frequently distracted. They often don't fully appreciate the great responsibility with which they have been entrusted.
Now, a new study further affirms this fact. AAA reveals new teen drivers—particularly those under the age of 18—are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash than older drivers. Injuries, too, are common in crashes involving teen motorists. These can result in lifelong scarring and disability. Compensation for such injuries will depend on the individual facts of the case. Even teens who were partially at-fault may be able to collect compensation, so long as their portion of fault does not exceed "slight," per SDCL 20-9-9.
The Reasons Teen Drivers Face Greater Danger
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015 an average of half a dozen teens died every day from injuries sustained in auto accidents.
The New York Times recently explored the dangers of teen driving, too. Traffic safety experts quoted said motorists between the ages of 16 and 17 tend to be the most dangerous of any life stage because of their impulsiveness and lack of experience. One expert summarized the situation in this manner: "Cars have gotten safer, roads have gotten safer, but teen drivers have not."
These analyses corroborate decades of previous data which has established just how dangerous teen drivers can be. But what, specifically, are the factors that cause this danger? And how can parents address these factors in order to reduce their teen driver's risk of having a car accident?
Factors Leading to Teen Car Crashes
Passengers are a major problem for teen drivers—specifically, passengers of the same age. The New York Times article reported that adding one non-family passenger to a teen's vehicle increased the odds of having an accident by nearly 45 percent. Interestingly, distraction was found to be highest when male teen drivers had male teen passengers in the car. Male drivers with female peer passengers tended to be more cautious behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is another serious problem which has spread rapidly across America with the prevalence of smartphones. Teens are not immune to this trend. Forbes reports on a Governors Highway Safety Association study which found teens to be the largest age group of drivers who were distracted at the time of an accident. While distraction is dangerous for any driver, it is particularly problematic for young, inexperienced drivers who are not always prepared to deal with obstacles in the road. Surprisingly, this study also found that teens were the second-least likely age group to use a cell phone while driving. This suggests that, despite teens' awareness of the risks of distracted driving, they are nonetheless still likely to crash on the relatively rare occasions when they do use a phone while driving.
The South Dakota Graduated Driver's Licensing Program
Like many states, South Dakota has implemented a graduated driver's licensing program for teen drivers. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety:
- Teens may obtain an instruction permit at the age of fourteen. Permit holders may drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. with any licensed driver. Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., permit holders may drive with a legal guardian.
- After holding the permit for 180 days (or ninety days plus a driver's education course), teen drivers may apply for a restricted minor's permit. This allows the teen driver to drive without supervision between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. (so long as he or she has their legal guardian's permission to do so). Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the permit holder may drive with a legal guardian.
- Once a permit holder has driven for six months free of convictions, he or she may apply for an operator license at the age of 16. This allows the driver full driving privileges.