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With so much recent media attention focused on gun control and school safety, it can be easy to forget that the biggest threat to teens’ safety are teen drivers themselves. Teen drivers face certain increased risks when it comes to car accidents. Researchers have been able to identify risk factors, and many state legislatures have written teen driving laws to help address them.
Rhode Island laws restrict certain teen driving privileges in order to promote road safety. Providence parents should understand these laws and help their teens enact safe driving habits as soon as they learn to drive.
Despite the claims of many aggravated teenage drivers, legal restrictions on teens’ driving privileges are not enacted simply to be mean, or even out of distrust. Research has consistently shown that teen drivers have higher risks of accidents, injuries, and death on the road. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the fatal crash rate is nearly three times higher for drivers aged 16 to 19 than it is for drivers aged 20 and older.
The Institute also reports that national studies of graduated licensing programs for teen drivers found that they lowered both insurance claim rates and fatal crash rates. These effects were found when the laws placed specific restrictions on nighttime driving and the number of teen passengers in a vehicle – as well as raising the age at which a teen could obtain a driver’s license.
Because statistics show that teens are more likely to be involved in accidents at night, or when there are other teen passengers in the vehicle, many states – including Rhode Island – prohibit these actions for teen drivers. AAA reports that Rhode Island teens may obtain a Limited Instruction Permit at age 16. This allows them to drive when an adult (who is at least age 21 and has held a driver’s license for at least 5 years) is in the front seat. Teen drivers may then apply for a limited provisional license, which allows them to drive unsupervised (except between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.) and with one passenger under the age of 21.
Finally, at age 17 and 6 months, a teen may receive a full license if he or she has held a provisional license for at least 12 months and received no seat belt or moving violations in the past 6 months. Full license holders are exempt from nighttime or passenger restrictions. They are only subject to the blanket ban on cell phone use for any driver under the age of 18.
Even as the law slowly lifts restrictions upon a teen’s driving privileges, it is important for parents to continue supervising their child in order to ensure they are learning safe driving habits. Our car accident attorneys have seen the devastating impact a teen driver’s accident can have upon innocent injury victims. Holding teen drivers accountable for dangerous driving habits not only keeps the roads safer for all drivers, but also helps injury victims access the compensation to which they are entitled by law.