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Underage Drivers Cause Fatal Accidents

August 25, 2008

A wreck Sunday claimed the life of the driver and his teenage passenger, and also injured three other teens.In Ellenwood, Georgia, near Cedar Grove High School on River Road, Hammam Southerland, 27, and Gregory Brown, 17, died when Southerland lost control of his vehicle, flipped twice and struck a telephone pole.Three male teenage passengers in the backseat were treated for injuries.Neighbors believe a dangerous curve in the roadway contributed to the accident.

Last month, a similar accident occurred killing fourteen-year old Mikah Blalock.Blalock was killed when the driver crashed into the telephone pole after traveling east on River Road.The driver of that vehicle was a fourteen-year old female.She was charged with vehicular homicide, failing to maintain her lane and driving without a license.Blalock was killed a week before he was to have entered high school.

Certainly, there are inherent problems with underage drivers.For good reason, Georgia does not allow minors under sixteen to drive without adult supervision.Fourteen-year old minors should not be behind the wheel of a car at all.Legislators continue to tackle the question of whether sixteen is too young to drive.This weekend’s accident may actually help the case of the minor in the first accident.We can expect her defense lawyer to argue that the road was inherently dangerous.And perhaps, it is.But that’s just the sort of reason why fourteen-year olds should not be behind the wheel in the first place.

Child behavior psychologist, Dr. James Brush notes that children under the age of sixteen lack the “emotional and cognitive skills to bear the responsibility of operating a vehicle.”

Here are some facts about teen drivers:

1. Teen drivers age 16-19 are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.

2. Teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, drive while intoxicated, and ride with an intoxicated driver.

3. Teen drivers’ inexperience cause them to fail to appreciate a hazardous situation.

4. Teen drivers tend to carry a high number of teen passengers, increasing the number of injuries in a wreck.

5. Teen driving accidents tend to occur most frequently on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 pm and 6 am.

Georgia has a graduated license program called the Teenage and Adult Driving Responsibility Act. Fifteen-year olds who pass a written exam may obtain an instructional permit allowing them to drive with adult supervision. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 may receive a Class D license after passing a written and driving exam.They must obtain 40 hours of supervised driving, and may not drive from midnight to six a.m. and are limited in the number of non-family, underage passengers they may carry.

For parents, keep in mind a few important points.Insurance would generally cover an accident caused by teenage driver (although insurance on that teen will likely increase after the accident).However, insurance will not likely cover the cost of an accident caused by an underage teenage driver out for a joyride.

In Georgia, parents are not generally held liable for the negligent acts of their minor children.However, parents could be held liable for an accident if the parent assisted the underage child in driving a vehicle.It’s hard to believe, but there are some cases where a parent gave an underage child the keys to the car.If the parent knows and gives permission for the child to drive, the parent may also face criminal penalties for child endangerment.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a teen driver or an underage driver, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.

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