Driving is an exciting rite of passage for many teenagers. But it's an experience riddled with danger. According to AAA, new teen drivers who are 16 and 17 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident than adults. Back to school season can be a particularly perilous time for high school students, as high concentrations of young, inexperienced drivers increase the frequency of traffic accidents in and around school zones.
The Graduated Driver’s License Program in Rhode Island
Like many states, Rhode Island has introduced a graduated driver’s licensing system. This occurs in three phases. According to the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles:
- A limited instruction permit may be issued to any Rhode Island resident between the ages of 16 and 18. Applicants must first complete a thirty-three hour driver’s education course.
- A limited provisional license may be issued once the driver has held a permit for six months. Applicants cannot have a motor vehicle conviction during that time. A parent or guardian must also sign an affidavit that the driver completed fifty hours of practice with a licensed driver, and at least ten of those hours must have been at night.
- A full operator’s license may be granted to a driver between 17- and 18-years-old who has held a provisional license for twelve months.
The Reasons Teen Drivers Face Greater Danger
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 an average of six teenagers died every day from motor vehicle injuries. The New York Times explored the dangers of teen driving further. One researcher considered the ages of sixteen and seventeen to be the most dangerous of any life stage, because of the risks of teen driving. She summarized the situation in this manner: “Cars have gotten safer, roads have gotten safer, but teen drivers have not.”
Passengers are a critical problem for teen drivers. 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 forty-four percent. Interestingly, distraction was found to be highest when male teen drivers had male teen passengers in the car. Male drivers with female teen passengers drove more safely.
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.
Keep your teen safe by enforcing rules for safe driving, and modeling safe driving behaviors for your teenage driver. If your teen driver has been involved in a car accident, contact a Providence car accident attorney as soon as possible. He or she has legal rights which must be protected.