driving

You Should Know: Keeping Back-To-School Teen Drivers Safe

Road Safety Tips for Teen Drivers
Heading Back to School

Labor Day weekend is over and summer is in the rearview mirror. New backpacks are crammed full of the tools of learning: laptops, books, pens, pencils, notebooks and more. But what about the tools young drivers need to stay safe on the road? These tips can help the teen drivers in your life get from home to homeroom in one piece.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens head back to school, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

The Stats

Teens who text and drive are  outside of their lane   about 10 percent of the time.

Teens who text and drive are outside of their lane  about 10 percent of the time.

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received his or her license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19. 

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Download report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zones most often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a Parent-Teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules.

This article appeared in our September 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

The Dangers of Texting & Driving - Facts & Statistics

"I think we can all agree: new technology offers many benefits - computers have allowed lightning fast data processing, the internet created a global world, and mobile phones provide us with convenience and a valuable safety tool.
Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences almost always rears its ugly head when it comes to technological advances. In terms of cell phones, one of the most dangerous consequences has proved to be a rise in distracted driving." - Misha Safranski, MoneySavingPro

Click here to learn more about the dangers of texting and driving at MoneySavingPro.

Teens 50% of All Pedestrian Deaths, Ages 5 to 19 

Traffic deaths are up 6 percent since 2010, pushing U.S. road fatalities to the highest level in a decade. However, the percentage increase in pedestrian deaths is far outpacing those on the road, jumping 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Walkers on smartphones, bicyclists ignoring traffic rules, coupled with distracted driving, are a deadly combination. 

Teens, who are much more likely to walk distracted with a mobile device, make up 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths ages 5 to 19.

Our recommendations: 

Make sure your children understand the importance of looking both ways before they step out onto a roadway. Point out the traffic lights to them and explain their significance. Also, if an intersection is equipped with a pedestrian light, point that out to them and make sure they understand what the illuminated symbols mean. Stand on the corner for a full cycle of the light and pedestrian signal to make sure your children understand how they work and who has the right-of-way when. Never cross against the light with your children even if there is no one coming or if others are doing it. You do not want to teach your children bad habits or to take unnecessary risks. Impress upon your children that even if they have the right of way they should still look and be cautious because you can never assume that drivers are paying attention. It only takes one misstep. And finally read our May newsletter and discuss it with your children. Stay safe out there.

Guy W. Crabtree is a partner with Crabtree, Carpenter & Connolly, PLLC, in Durham, NC.

You Should Know: The Latest on Marijuana and Driving

A patchwork of state laws define marijuana intoxication.

A patchwork of state laws define marijuana intoxication.

Marijuana and Driving

Studies analyzing the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana have been marked by contradictory research and imprecise measurement. Two major studies published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in February 2015 shed new light on a topic of increasing concern as 24 states have legalized marijuana (four states and the District of Columbia for recreational use, the rest for medicinal use). According to a recent article in Timemagazine, another five states could follow suit this year.

NHTSA’s first report confirmed predictions that legalization might lead to more stoned drivers. In a 2013-14 roadside survey of more than 9,000 drivers, 12.6 percent tested positive for THC (the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,) compared to 8.6 percent in 2007 – a 47 percent increase. The percentage of drivers at or above the legal limit for alcohol was 8.3 percent, down 80 percent since a 1973 NHTSA roadside survey.

But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. The second NHTSA report focused on crash risk in what the agency described as the “first large-scale study in the United States to include drugs other than alcohol.” Data was collected from more than 3,000 crash-involved drivers and compared to 6,000 drivers not involved in crashes. While drivers who tested positive for THC were 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash, other factors like age, gender, ethnicity and blood alcohol concentration were considered more likely the culprit than the presence of drugs. NHTSA researchers didn't mince words, writing: “Caution should be exercised in assuming that drug presence implies driver impairment.”

Meanwhile, the number of traffic fatalities involving marijuana-stoned drivers has increased in Washington and Colorado since both states legalized the recreational use of the drug, according to two recent reports. The percentage of drivers who used pot within hours of a fatal crash in Washington nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to a just-published AAA study. A similar increase was recorded in Colorado with 10 percent of drivers in fatal accidents testing positive for marijuana in 2011 versus 5.9 percent in 2009.

OK, So What’s “Under the Influence”?

Findings from these studies underscore another important point in this discussion: Measuring impairment in a person using marijuana isn’t comparable to blood alcohol concentration. “Most psychoactive drugs are chemically complex molecules, whose absorption, action and elimination from the body are difficult to predict,” NHTSA writes, "and considerable differences exist between individuals with regard to the rates at which these processes occur. Alcohol, in comparison, is more predictable.” Some marijuana users can have measurable amounts of THC in their bodies days or even weeks after using the drug, long after any psychoactive effects remain.

The uncertainty surrounding the intoxicating effects of marijuana is reflected in the patchwork of state laws defining driving “under the influence” of drugs. Some states follow a zero tolerance standard, making it illegal to have any presence of THC or other illegal drugs in your body while driving. Others set a legal THC limit expressed in nanograms (one-billionth of a gram) per milliliter of blood. In others, impairment is inferred based on the circumstances rather than defined by blood THC levels.

To review the laws on marijuana and driving in your state, click here.

What’s Next?

Of course, no one is suggesting that people should “blaze one and go for a joyride whenever the whimsy strikes,” wrote a New York Times reporter after reviewing the NHTSA study. There is plenty of evidence to show that marijuana use impairs driving skills. And as all these studies make clear, we need more research on the effects of marijuana and driving, along with better equipment for detecting and measuring marijuana-related impairment. It is also clear that the science of intoxication surrounding marijuana is different than that of alcohol and may demand a more nuanced response by policymakers, law enforcement and court officers. In other words, stay tuned for more on this evolving topic.

 This article appeared in our June 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter. 

The Dangers Of Driving Under The Influence Of Any Drug, Including Pot

In North Carolina, a person is guilty of driving while impaired if they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or an impairing substance. The THC in marijuana would be considered an impairing substance. One would be impaired within the meaning of the law if one had taken a sufficient amount of THC to cause him to lose the normal control of his bodily or mental faculties, or both, to such an extent that there is an appreciable impairment of either or both of these faculties.  

While we too often encounter wrecks caused by drivers impaired by alcohol, a case involving impairment solely by THC is rare. One reason, of course, is that there is no roadside or magistrate’s office testing apparatus that can easily measure the amount of THC in a driver’s blood. There is no breathalyzer test to detect THC. A blood draw and testing of that blood is necessary.  

When investigating a case where impairment is suspected and the at-fault driver was taken for medical treatment as a result of the wreck, we always attempt to get the medical records, including the lab reports, from that treatment. The blood test will usually include testing for TCH and other drugs. If drugs are present we can and will use that information in our client’s favor as we prosecute our client’s case. 

Causing injury and damage while driving while impaired will subject the impaired driver to punitive damages and we will often include such a claim in the overall damages claim.

Guy W. Crabtree is a partner with Crabtree, Carpenter & Connolly, PLLC, in Durham, NC. The firm helps injured parties from all over the nation recover from injuries caused by the negligence of others.

You Should Know: Cell Phones Not the Only Cause of Distracted Driving

Teens Most at Risk but Often Learn Dangerous Behavior from Parents    

Americans hate to waste time, even while driving. Whether via smartphones or the new hands-free systems standard in many vehicles today, we can talk with friends, family or business associates, search for the nearest gas station, or pull up a review of that new restaurant. Most people also think they can do all this while driving and not cause a crash. But that’s where they’re wrong: An estimated 431,000 people were injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents in 2014, up from 424,000 in 2013. The death toll was 3,179.

What exactly is distracted driving? Cell phones factor into many kinds of distractions, but there are plenty of other ways to lose focus while driving. The three types of distracted driving as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

This can include texting, talking on a phone, eating, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, adjusting music or reacting to the behavior of a passenger.

Texting while driving tops the list of dangerous distractions and has already been banned in 46 states. Research has shown that texting and driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Texting is also the communication method of choice for most young people. Therefore, it is not surprising, say many safety advocates, that drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

Parents can play an important role in teaching their teens about the dangers of distracted driving by setting a good example themselves, yet 48 percent of teens have seen their parents use a cell phone while driving. Fifteen percent have seen their parents texting while driving [download report].

Watch for Other Distracted Drivers and Pedestrians

Even if you’re a good driver and try to stay focused on the road at all times, you have to be aware of others who might be distracted. Ninety percent of adults consider distracted driving unacceptable in other drivers, yet 35 percent of those same drivers admit to driving distracted. Defensive, focused and cautious driving is your best bet to prevent an accident with a careless driver.

Another dangerous behavior on the rise is distracted walking. Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among those 19 and under, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.

Stop Distracted Driving Before It Stops You

Distracted driving accidents may be on the rise, but these incidents are 100 percent preventable. Here are some commonsense tips on how you can protect yourself and others:

  • Visual distractions: Keep your eyes on the road, pull over to read directions, and put your phone away.
  • Manual distractions: Keep your phone out of reach, make all adjustments before driving, and don’t reach for items while driving.
  • Cognitive distractions: Avoid phone calls (even hands-free), stay focused on the road, and keep your emotions in check.

Also consider visiting EndDD.org for a safe driving agreement that you can print and share with your family. Together, we can keep our streets safe for pedestrians and drivers alike.

 This article appeared in our April 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.