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National Teen Driver Safety Week: The Frightening Reality Of Teen Driving!

  • By: Antonio Garguile, Esq.
  • Published: October 20, 2017
National Teen Driver Safety Week: The Frightening Reality Of Teen Driving!

In case you haven’t heard, this week is National Teen Driver Safety Week. This annual initiative established by Congress in 2007, is dedicated to raising awareness and gaining community involvement in an effort to create and encourage safer driving habits among teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes have historically been, and still remain, the number one cause of teen deaths each year. In 2015 alone, over 2,300 teens in the United States ages 16 to 19 were killed and over 220,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes in 2014. While these staggering numbers can be quite alarming, accidents are not the only concern for teen drivers. Teen drivers involved in an accident are often issued a traffic ticket as well. In addition, even without an accident, young drivers are typically cited with 1 or more traffic infractions while they still hold an intermediate license, which lasts until they turn 18 years old. There are a number of reasons for this.

Teen drivers have considerably less experience operating a motor vehicle compared to their adult counterparts and are also more vulnerable to driving distractions such as cell phone use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), research shows that dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. In addition to the increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, young drivers that use their cell phone while driving can also be cited for various traffic infractions that can ultimately affect their driver’s license and insurance rates.

In the state of Washington specifically, teens (ages 16 to 18) are not permitted to use wireless devices while driving even if the device has hands-free capability. In addition, teen drivers can be pulled over for cell phone use as a primary offense, which means law enforcement can stop them even if no other traffic offense has been committed. Teen drivers can also be cited for Washington’s new Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction for operating a personal electronic device while driving. Cell phone tickets can be quite problematic for young drivers. While a teen still has his/her intermediate license, which lasts until the age of 18, being cited with a Cell Phone Use While Driving, Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction can lead to high fines and the loss of passenger and nighttime driving privileges.

For Washington drivers under the age of 18, an intermediate license can be obtained if all state requirements have been met. However, there are still a great deal of restrictions for drivers that hold an intermediate license. For example, teen drivers are not permitted to have passengers under the age of 20 (except for immediate family members) in their vehicle for the first 6 months after they have obtained their intermediate license. While this may seem unfair for teens that want to enjoy their new driving privileges with friends, it makes a lot of sense to lawmakers and parents. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000, other teenage passengers in the car with a young driver can significantly increase the likelihood of crashes, compared to when driving alone. Research shows that because teen drivers are often less focused on the road when their peers are in the car, the risk for fatal crashes increases significantly as the number of teenagers in the car goes up (JAMA). Furthermore, teen drivers can be cited with a traffic infraction — that comes with a hefty fine — for violating the passenger restrictions of an intermediate license (RCW 46.20.075).

In addition to passenger restrictions, for the first 12 months after obtaining an intermediate license in the state of Washington, teen drivers are not permitted to drive between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. For all ages, fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night; but the risk is higher for teen drivers. With the ever-increasing social, academic, and physical demands placed on young drivers today, they are often at a higher risk for drowsy driving. According to NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2015 alone, teen drivers (ages 15 to 18) accounted for almost 1 out of every 10 fatal drowsy driving accidents. Since the risk for teen driver accidents during late night/early morning hours is so high, it’s important for these young drivers to get plenty of sleep before getting behind the wheel and to be extra cautious when driving at night. Even if there is no accident involved, teen drivers can still be cited with a ticket for an intermediate license violation (RCW 46.20.075) if they are pulled over in the state of Washington between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. An infraction like this can come with a high fine and can also result in a loss of driving privileges under certain circumstances.

In addition to intermediate license violations, teen drivers are also subject to speeding infractions just as adult drivers are. In fact, speeding is often a more critical safety issue for teen drivers as compared to their adult counterparts. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that from 2000-2011, teens were involved in 19,447 speeding-related crashes. Most experienced drivers understand that with increased speed comes the need for increased stopping distance to avoid a collision. However, due to their lack of experience and maturity, this principle is often overlooked by teen drivers. According to a study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2005, teens are actually more likely than older drivers to speed and to allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). In addition to speeding, some drivers that don’t allow for enough stopping distance may also be cited with a Following too Close ticket (RCW 46.61.145), even if there is no accident involved. Speeding tickets can be a big problem for young drivers, especially those with a Washington state intermediate license. High ticket fines of $100 or more are one thing for these drivers to consider, but a potential loss of driving privileges and an increase in insurance rates can be another.

The Bottom Line:

Teen drivers that hold an intermediate license are not only at a higher risk for motor vehicle crashes due to some of the reasons mentioned above, but an accumulation of 1 or more traffic offenses can, under certain circumstances, also lead to the loss of their driving privileges until they turn 18 years old. For teen drivers, it’s important to consider the following key points:

  1. The first time a teen driver with an intermediate license either receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident, his or her passenger and nighttime driving restrictions will be extended beyond the regular 6-12 months all the way until the turn 18.
  2. The second time he or she receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident (while still on an intermediate license), his or her license will be suspended for 6 months (or until he or she turns 18, whichever comes first).
  3. The third time a traffic ticket is received or the teen driver is involved in an accident, his or her license will be suspended until he or she turns 18.

(Department of Licensing – Washington)

The good news is that our firm fights traffic tickets, even those that are issued because of an accident, for both adult and intermediate drivers alike. If you or your teen has been cited with a traffic ticket in the state of Washington you don’t have to worry. Give us a call at 253-201-2001. For teen drivers on an intermediate license, we have a great track record of keeping all driving privileges intact and preventing traffic tickets from becoming part of the driver’s record. We hope to hear from you soon!


About the Author Tony was born and raised in Bremerton, Washington. He is an
energetic attorney and currently focuses his attention on the
representation of clients in both civil and criminal traffic matters.