If you have a teenager who would like to start driving, you may have some concerns and questions. Teens and young adult drivers are more likely to be involved in serious car accidents, compared to more experienced drivers, so it is worth being familiar with the risks and with Connecticut’s licensing requirements. There are also steps you can take to support your child’s safety.
To address the increased dangers that new, young drivers face, Connecticut has implemented regulations aimed at reducing the risk of collisions among people aged 16 and 17. When people in this age group obtain a learner’s permit, they can only drive if they are accompanied by a licensed driving instructor, or an adult over 20 who has had a license for at least four years without any suspensions.
After completing 40 hours of practice, an eight-hour state-approved driving course, and 22 hours of driver’s education in a classroom, the teen can then do their driver’s license exam. During the first six months with a license, they still can not have passengers except for parents or legal guardians. Drivers under 18 also can’t drive after 11 p.m.
Thousands of Annual Crashes Involving Young Drivers in Connecticut
Despite these strong regulations, there are still thousands of accidents a year in Connecticut involving young drivers. In 2022, 28.6% of fatal crashes in the state involved a driver under the age of 24. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day alone, there were 3,216 crashes involving teens aged 15 to 19, and those led to 16 deaths and 45 serious injuries.
In the US, in 2021, a total of 2,116 young drivers (people under the age of 20) died in crashes, which was an 11% increase from the year before. The total number of injuries that year was 203,256 young drivers. All up, young drivers made up 8.4% of traffic crashes that year, but licensed young drivers only accounted for 5% of all license holders. That means they are more likely than experienced drivers to be involved in a crash.
Young male drivers were much more likely to be involved in crashes. A total of 60.28 males per 100,000 licensed drivers were killed in crashes, compared to 25.51 young female drivers. Though people under 21 aren’t allowed to drink alcohol, 27% of young drivers who died in traffic crashes in 2021 were under the influence. While people under 20 are less likely to die of health-related issues, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for them, so it is worthwhile taking precautions.
The months of the year when the risk is highest are June, July, and August – the school summer break months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. At this time, young drivers are more likely to be involved in distracted driving, drug and alcohol use, and speeding. They also may travel with more passengers. Some 36% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers aged 15 to 18 take place during these three months.
Why Teen Drivers Are More Likely to Cause Accidents
Several critical factors contribute to the higher likelihood of teenage drivers being engaged in car accidents:
- Less experience: Teen drivers lack experience in recognizing and avoiding road hazards. They will typically notice slippery roads or vehicles on the shoulder later than seasoned drivers. Moreover, they frequently underestimate the potential dangers, leading to critical errors. Young drivers are at the greatest risk in their first few months, and that risk decreases as they accumulate on-road experience.
- Substance use: Despite it being illegal, it is unfortunately common for teens to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with over a million teens doing so in the US each year.
- Distracted driving: Individuals under the age of 20 unfortunately have the nation’s highest rates of fatalities resulting from distracted driving. Using cell phones is a major culprit.
- Peer passengers: Research has unveiled a connection between the number of teenage passengers and an increased risk of crashing when an unsupervised teen is behind the wheel. This is one of the main reasons that Connecticut has regulations that limit the number of passengers for new teenage drivers.
- Driving at night and on the weekend: The vast majority of teenage auto deaths occur after 3 p.m., and likewise, the majority occur on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- Speeding: Male teenagers are particularly prone to risk-taking activities, especially when other male teenagers are with them. Teens are also generally more inclined to engage in behaviors that impede sudden stops, such as speeding and tailgating.
- Inadequate seat belt use: Unfortunately, teenagers tend to use seat belts much less frequently than other age groups.
Teenagers are less prepared by life to understand the consequences of their actions, and they are often keen to impress their friends by doing donuts or thrill-seeking. For this reason, the Connecticut state government created a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program in 2008, where 16- and 17-year-old drivers have to complete 70 hours total of classroom and on-the-road learning.
Aside from the requirements mentioned above, the GDL program focuses on education, supervision, and restricted driving times. The initial learner’s permit must be used for the first four or six months, depending on if the young driver was taught via a formal school or at home.
In addition to the 70 hours of training for the new driver and a road skills test, parents or legal guardians also have to take a two-hour course.
Then, once the young driver has obtained their driver’s license, various rules apply for all 16 and 17-year-old drivers. If there are no educational or work commitments, or an emergency, they can’t drive after 11 p.m. They can’t use their phones in the car, whether hands-free or not. In the first six months of having their license, they still can’t have any passengers apart from parents or guardians, and in the second six months, they can only transport immediate family members. Any violations, such as DUIs, racing, reckless driving, and speeding, will result in the license being seized for a 48-hour suspension and the car being towed.
Can Parents Be Liable For Their Kids Car Crash in Connecticut?
The short answer is yes, usually. In the majority of instances, legal responsibility for damages resulting from car accidents caused by teenagers falls upon their parents. This is largely because most teenagers drive cars that their parents own. Under Connecticut’s family-car doctrine, the car owner is liable for the negligence of a family member who was using the car, so long as that family member had general authority to drive it.
Consequently, when a parent permits their teenager to drive their car, and that teenager is involved in an accident leading to injuries or fatalities, the vehicle’s owner (the parent) assumes liability. In such cases, neither the teenager nor anyone to whom the parent lends the car can be held accountable if they do not possess ownership of the vehicle. Further, in Connecticut and elsewhere, parents are legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority (18 in Connecticut). However, the situation is complex and there are nuances in some cases, such as a child who has run away from home, for example.
Therefore, it is crucial that parents are responsible and cautious when lending their car out, especially to teenagers who are still learning. It’s also recommended that parents review their insurance policies and consult with providers to ascertain whether the policy extends coverage to teenagers or any other individuals who may borrow their vehicle.
Not all policies automatically cover teenagers, so it may be necessary to make adjustments to the coverage or acquire a new policy that does explicitly include them. In Connecticut, young drivers can access coverage via their parents’ insurance policy by being listed on the policy and residing in the same home as the owner of the vehicle.
Tips For Parents on Keeping Your Children Safe
There are various ways you can help keep your child safe as they learn to drive a car and beyond that.
Talk to your teens about driver safety
Parents are one of the top influences that children have when forming many of their behaviors and habits, and that includes driving. Talk to your children about road rules and about the potential dangers. Stress the risks of taking photos while driving and of using social media. Even texting and talking can distract a driver. While, initially, they aren’t allowed to drive with friends in the car, it is still worth raising their awareness of how distracting friends can be when driving with them.
Spend extra time talking frankly with your child about drunk driving. Teenagers are more susceptible to peer pressure, and it can be hard to say no to a drink for fear of killing the mood. Remind them that it just takes once for a life-altering mistake, and that Connecticut has a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving.
Set a good example
For children and teenagers, if their parent does it, it is okay. Even when you aren’t talking to them about driving, they are observing what you do. So it is important to set a good example and limit your smartphone usage while driving. Model staying focused on the road, follow all the safety regulations and recommendations, and wear your seat belt. Be consistent about this so that this sort of behavior is the norm for your child.
Alter the driver settings in your car
Your teen may struggle if your driving settings fit you instead of them. This will be particularly noticeable if they are driving your car and struggling with basic maneuvers. Make any changes necessary so that your child can be comfortable in the driver’s seat.
Encourage your child to get up early if driving to school
It isn’t ideal if your child leaves for school in a rush while still eating breakfast. Eating while driving can affect a driver’s concentration, as can being hurried and flustered.
Purchase your child a newer car
Once your teen has their driver’s license, you might consider getting them their own car. The advantage of newer models is that they come with updated safety features, including collision prevention technology.
Set a driving curfew
Though Connecticut already imposes an 11 p.m. limit, it gets dark earlier than that, and an inexperienced driver can be more vulnerable at night and more likely to take risks under the cover of darkness.
Teach your child the symptoms of engine problems
It is important that a driver is able to recognize problems with their car before they get so bad that something goes wrong. It can be easy to ignore minor problems if your child is in a rush. So teach them that the smell of fuel inside the car, or a vibrating steering wheel, leaks, and noisy brakes are problems worth taking seriously. Make sure your child feels comfortable calling you at the sign of any issues.
Hartford Car Accident Attorneys
Hassett & George is a local firm based in Hartford County, Connecticut, but with a national reputation. The firm has a long and proud track record of providing legal representation for a range of issues, including personal injury and insurance.
When it comes to car crashes in Hartford County, Hassett & George has a history of understanding our clients’ anxieties and concerns, and turning that into action. We provide personal attention and address the full extent of the impact of the car crash on your life, including both emotional and physical injury. If your teenager has been in a crash, reach out to our team of seasoned legal professionals for lawyers that will represent you and your best interests. Contact us today.
- DMV Center for Teen Safe Driving – This is the official Connecticut state website with information on teen driving laws, driving school, home training, safe driving videos, and more.
- TSM Teen Driver Safety Week – The Traffic Safety Marketing Week is held in October. Campaign material includes fact sheets and videos for parents and teens, in English and Spanish.
- Safe Kids Connecticut – This website has safety tips and information. Local Safe Kids groups sometimes hold safety events that provide information and safety items like car seats and smoke alarms.
- NHTSA Teen Driving – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides tips and videos for parents for different car safety issues your teenager may face, as well as fact sheets for new drivers, and driving school options.
- NSC – The National Safety Council has reports with in-depth information and links to further resources for your teen to get the experience they need for driving safely.