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Graduated Driver’s License Laws Successful in Reducing Teen Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading killer of American teens. Car crashes make up 44 percent of teen deaths in the U.S., and teen drivers are three times more likely than other drivers to be a part of a fatal crash. In Washington State alone, teen drivers are involved in 14 percent of all fatal crashes even though they represent only seven percent of licensed drivers.

Reasons for Teen Auto Accidents

There are many reasons teen drivers are more likely than other drivers to be in auto accidents. One of those reasons is texting while driving. According to a survey by AT&T, 97 percent of teens reported that they knew texting while driving was dangerous, but 43 percent of them admitted to doing it anyway.

Another reason for teen car accidents is drinking while driving. A report by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm insurance found that 4 out of 10 teen drivers who died in motor vehicle accidents had blood-alcohol levels of at least .01 percent. Other causes of teen auto accidents include not wearing seat belts and speeding. Yet, the main cause is a lack of experience and maturity.

Reducing Teen Car Crashes

One tactic to reduce teen car accidents is graduated drivers' license laws that provide stages of privileges in order to ensure that teen drivers gain experience before being allowed unrestricted rights. In May, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that since states first established graduated license laws in 1996, the teen death rate has steadily decreased.

Washington's Graduated License Laws

Washington State's graduated driver's license law has been in place since 2001.

One of the requirements of the Washington state law is that parents must spend an additional 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving time with teenagers before they can get licenses.

The Washington graduated license law has three stages of privileges: learner, intermediate and full. In order to receive a learner's license, teens who have taken driver's education must be 15 years old, and those who have not taken a course must be 16. Teens must successfully maintain their learners' license for six months, and, as mentioned previously, must do 50 hours of supervised driving, 10 of which need to be at night.

In order for teens to receive an Intermediate license, they must be 16 years old. Intermediate drivers are not allowed to drive from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Except for family members, Intermediate license holders cannot have a passenger with them who is under 20 years old for the first six months of their intermediate license and cannot have more than three passengers under the age of 20 after the first six months. Teens are not eligible for a license with full privileges until they are 18 years old.

Since the Washington law has been in effect, more teens are waiting until they are 17 years old to get their license. As a result, collisions involving 16-year-olds have decreased by 67 percent and collisions involving 17-year-olds have decreased by 53 percent.

Seek Legal Help

While teen auto accidents may be declining, teen drivers still get involved in accidents. It is advisable to seek out a knowledgeable Washington personal injury attorney when pursuing a claim against a teen driver and/or his or her parents. An attorney can help you interact successfully with the responding insurance company to get all the potential damages you may be entitled to such as: medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, and property damage.