Young people are some of the highest-risk drivers on the road. While most adolescent motorists try their best to be safe, many lack the experience and wisdom needed to avoid unexpected obstacles. For teenage drivers, taking the wheel can be a dangerous affair—not just for themselves but also for everyone around them. In fact, a majority of accidents involving teenagers are fully preventable, caused by a lack of judgment and poor on-the-spot decision-making.
Teenage Drivers and Car Accidents
In a great many ways, teenage motorists are at something of a disadvantage: they lack the experience needed to safely navigate challenging situations yet have reached an age where society expects them to begin taking on adult responsibilities, like driving.
Unfortunately, teenagers’ broad lack of driving experience leads to some unfortunate statistics. For instance:
- Teenage drivers between the ages 16 and 19 have the highest risk of any age group of being involved in an automobile accident.
- Car accidents are the leading cause of death for persons between the ages of 13 and 19.
- Each year, approximately 2,000 people die in car accidents involving teenage drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests these statistics may be explained, at least in part, by teenagers’ susceptibility to particular risk factors. They are more easily distracted, both by friends and technology, are less likely to use their seat belts, and tend to be more impulsive than adult drivers.
Missouri Laws for Teenage Drivers
The State of Missouri has tried to take steps to ensure that teenagers acquire the skills needed to be responsible drivers while keeping everyone else on the road as safe as possible.
Missouri, like many other states, has a “graduated driver license” system designed for young, inexperienced drivers. This graduated driver license system, or GDL, permits teenagers progressively more freedom through three separate stages:
- Instruction Permit. A new teenage driver who passes their road, vision, and written exams may obtain a 12-month permit. If they are under 16 years of age, they can only drive when accompanied by a licensed adult over 25 years of age and with at least three years of driving experience.
- Intermediate License. Teenagers are eligible for an intermediate license at 16. For the first six months, intermediate license holders have certain restrictions, like not being able to drive with more than one passenger under age 19, except for members of their immediate family. They also cannot drive between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless transiting to and from school, a school activity, church, or a job. Exceptions exist for emergency situations and drivers accompanied by a licensed driver over age 21.
- Under-21 Full Driver License. Teenagers can receive this license once they turn 18. They are no longer subject to any restrictions but receive a vertically oriented license to easily distinguish them from over-21 drivers.
Teenagers who violate the conditions of their graduated licenses may be found liable in an accident.
What to Do After an Accident Involving a Teenage Driver
If you have been involved in an accident with a teenage driver, you should:
- Ensure your own safety and health, and then check on the teenage motorist.
- Call the police. An officer’s report can help establish fault. Their report may also be used in a personal injury lawsuit.
- Take photographs of the accident, and create a video walk-around of the scene. Capture pictures of any relevant damage, injuries, skid-marks, or traffic control signs and signals.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Even if you do not believe you were injured, you should always visit a doctor after a car accident. Seeking medical attention can bolster any claim you may have to file, especially if your initial wounds were masked by a post-accident adrenaline rush.
If you were hurt, you should consult a personal injury attorney to find out how you can recover the money you had to pay toward car repairs, medical bills, or physical rehabilitation. A successful personal injury lawsuit can also restore lost income from having to take time away from work and more.
Possible Damages in a Car Crash
Anyone who has been injured in a car crash and is eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit can recover lost expenses. Missouri law defines two types of damages:
- Economic damages, or damages that are objective and have a set dollar amount. Economic damages may include medical bills, physical rehabilitation, lost income, the costs of a car rental while your vehicle is being repaired, prescription medications not covered by insurance, and specialist appointments and recommendations.
- Non-economic damages, or damages that are comparably subjective and do not have a set dollar amount. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of companionship, emotional distress, and inconvenience.
In some cases, a Missouri court may allow a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to sue for punitive damages intended to punish a particularly negligent or reckless offender.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
You should always contact a personal injury attorney after getting into a car accident, especially if you had to pay for repair costs or medical expenses out of pocket. A Missouri personal injury attorney will help you investigate the wreck, build a compelling case for your recovery, and then advocate for you in court.
In accidents involving teenage drivers, your attorney will find out whether the teenage driver was complying with their license’s restrictions, whether their negligence was enabled by parental recklessness, and if they were operating a motor vehicle while distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
All the while, your lawyer will be working to ensure that you get the justice you deserve.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident in Missouri?
If you've been injured in a car accident, you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Cape Girardeau office directly at 573.335.3359 to schedule your initial consultation.