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A Guide to Teenage Driver Accidents in North and South Carolina

February 1, 2019 Motor Vehicle Accidents

Recently, a teenage driver in Raleigh was killed after her vehicle ran off the road and collided with several trees. At the time that the accident occurred, the driver is reported by law enforcement to have been driving 95 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. The death of the teenage driver was very difficult on her classmates, family, and surrounding community. Teenage drivers throughout North Carolina and South Carolina are much more likely to end up in deadly accidents; their relative inexperience often results in their failure to properly survey their surroundings, going too fast for road conditions, tendency to mix alcohol with driving, and driving while distracted.

A recent study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in partnership with State Farm Insurance found that teenage drivers are four times more likely to end up in a deadly accident than other drivers. For starters, 21% of teenage driver accidents occurred because drivers were speeding. The best way for teenage drivers and their parents to reduce the risk of accidents is to follow some important safety advice as well as to avoid the most common behaviors that contribute to teenage driver accidents, such as speeding.

North Carolina’s Teenage Driver Laws

North Carolina has a graduated licensing system, which allows teenage drivers to hone their driving skills by limiting the number of high-risk driving situations in which they are involved.

Teenage drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 are able to obtain a Level 1 learner permit. To obtain the permit, drivers must complete a North Carolina approved driver education program. Drivers also must provide proof of residency as well as their social security information. After obtaining a learner permit, only the supervising parent or guardian is allowed in the front seat with the driver. During the first six months of the permit, a teenage driver is only able to drive between the hours of 5:00 AM and 9:00 PM. Teenage drivers are prohibited from using electronic devices while driving unless it is an emergency situation.

To obtain a Level 2 provisional license, a teenage driver must hold a learner permit for one year without receiving a moving violation conviction, seat belt violation, or cell phone violation. Drivers also must be between the ages of 16 and 18. All passengers in a vehicle driven by someone with a provisional license must wear proper safety restraints. With a limited provisional license, a driver is allowed to drive unsupervised between 5:00 AM to 9:00 AM as well as outside these hours in a limited number of situations.

 Before a Level 3 license can be obtained, drivers must obtain a provisional license and hold it for a period of six months without any violations. There are not any restricted hours for drivers with Level 3 provisional licenses.

Additionally, all motor vehicles registered in North Carolina including those driven by teenage drivers must have liability insurance. If insurance is cancelled, the Division of Motor Vehicles must be notified within 10 days. The minimum amount of insurance that a person is required to carry include the following:

  • $25,000 property damage for each accident
  • $30,000 for the bodily injury of one person
  • $60,000 for the bodily injury of two or more individuals

South Carolina’s Teenage Driver Laws

The permit process in South Carolina allows 15-year olds to begin receiving driving practice. Much like North Carolina, South Carolina’s laws are designed to make certain that teenage drivers do not end up in a number of dangerous situations as soon as they begin driving.

Under state laws, these teenage drivers must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and who sits beside the teenage driver at all times. To obtain a permit, a driver must have parental consent, visit the local department of motor vehicles with a completed application form, bring proof identify, present proof of insurance, and pay a permit fee. After passing written and vision tests, the driver will be presented a beginner’s permit.

To obtain a driver’s license, the teenage driver must complete 40 hours of supervised driving within the hours of 6 AM and 12 AM. Teenage drivers must also hold these permits for a period of six months.

If a permit holder finishes the six-month period with a beginner’s permit, he or she will be granted a conditional license. If the driver is 16 or older, a special restricted license will be issued. Applicants for this restricted license must complete a driver’s education program as well as pass vision and driving tests. These license holders are permitted by the state of South Carolina to drive unsupervised between 6 AM and 6 PM and from 6 PM to 12 AM must be accompanied by a licensed adult driver who is older than 21.

16-year-old drivers who have held their permit for 180 days are allowed to apply for a special license that offers the opportunity to bypass the restricted driving hours requirements.

Any teenage driver who has six or more driving points on a beginner’s permit, conditional permit, or special permit will have their license suspended for a period of six months.

Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Teenage Driver Accidents

 Some of the important steps that teenage drivers can take to avoid ending up in deadly accidents include the following:

  • Never speed. A large number of teenage drivers end up in speeding accidents, which is why it is important to set a good example about what is a safe speed at which to travel. Teenage drivers should never feel pressure to keep up with traffic. Instead, it is best to focus on driving the safest speed possible.
  • Use a zero-tolerance policy. Make sure to institute a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving. There is not any amount of alcohol consumption at which it is safe for a teen driver to operate a vehicle. Parents should also avoid drinking and driving because this sends a bad message and statistics have established that teens who have watched their parents drink are much more likely to consume alcohol.
  • Avoid distracted driving. Teach your teenage driver to reduce the risk of distraction on the road by not texting or talking on the phone while operating your vehicle. This means that you should always keep your cell phone off while driving. You should also avoid texting while stopped because this has been proven dangerous, as well. Reduce other distractions including playing with the GPS, adjusting music, or anything else that can cause a driver’s mind, eyes, or hands to wander.
  • Restrict passenger limits. Teenage drivers should not operate vehicles full of passengers. Restrict your teenager to transporting only another friend or two.
  • Always wear seatbelts. Wear a seat built whenever driving or traveling in a motor vehicle. It is also important for parents to wear seat belts to communicate to teenagers that it is important to wear one.
  • Attend training classes. Teenage drivers should speak up if they feel unsafe on the road. There are numerous types of training classes available for teenage drivers to acquire the skills necessary to safely operate a vehicle.
  • Teach defensive driving. Driving defensively means always remaining at least one car length behind other vehicles on the road or more when traveling at faster speeds. Always be on the lookout for other drivers in order to anticipate trouble before it happens. Communicate these ideas to your kids, and lead by example.
  • Teach how to drive in all conditions. Night driving takes some experience before it can be done safely. Parents should make certain that teenage drivers receive an adequate amount of training at night as well as in inclement weather conditions.
  • Choose a safe vehicle. It is a wise idea for a teenage driver to select the safest vehicle possible. While there is incentive to select an affordable vehicle, safety measures should not be compromised in doing so.

Common Causes of Teen Driving Accidents

 There are numerous ways in which teenage driving accidents occur, which include the following:

  • Distracted driving. It is common for teenage drivers to grow distracted while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 12% of teenage driver accidents involve drivers who were distracted at the time the accident occurred. While distractions behind the wheel are many, the most common is texting or talking on smart phones. Others include eating and playing with the radio. Even if a driver’s attention is diverted for a second, there is a chance that a deadly accident will occur that the driver will not be prepared to handle.
  • Speeding. Teenage driving accidents commonly result from speeding, which is responsible for a large number of deadly car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that speeding is responsible for 35% of all fatal car accidents in which a teen driver is involved.
  • Drunk driving. Many underage drivers make the mistake of operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, leading to deadly accidents. Alcohol impairs any driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and when combined with a teen’s inexperience, it can prove deadly. One quarter of teenage driver fatalities are reported to be the result of drunk driving.
  • Reckless driving. Sometimes teen drivers make the decision to operate a vehicle in a reckless manner. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the likelihood a driver will operate a vehicle in a reckless manner increases significantly as the number of passengers in the vehicle increases. Male teenage drivers are at a higher risk of being in a serious accident due to reckless driving. Reckless driving can involve failure to yield, speeding, tailgating, sudden lane changes, and failure to come to a full stop.
  • Inexperienced drivers. During the first few years, teen drivers are still learning how to safely operate their vehicles. For many people, it takes several years of driving before they feel comfortable in all driving situations. With more experience, drivers have an easier time navigating dangerous road conditions. Some of the dangers that teenage drivers are often not prepared to handle include animals on the road, sudden road stops, and adverse weather conditions.
  • Driving with too many passengers. Teenage passengers pose a substantial danger to teenager drivers. A large number of teenage driver accidents occur because the driver is interacting with one or more passengers. Many times, these accidents result in drivers going off the road or rear-ending another vehicle.

Speak with an Experienced Accident Attorney Today

 If your teen was injured in a motor vehicle accident, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney at Wallace Childers PLLC.