teen driver behind the wheel before an accidentGetting a driver’s license is an exciting rite of passage for a teenager. But with this privilege comes a host of adult responsibilities that they are sometimes ill-prepared for. Even the best and most cautious teen drivers sometimes get in car accidents, and youth and inexperience can make things complicated. If you are injured in a car accident with a teen driver in Texas, it’s helpful to know the rules and regulations for teen drivers so you can hold them accountable for their actions.

Graduated Driver License Program

In order to help reduce accidents on the road while still giving teens the experience they need to become good drivers, Texas implemented the Graduated Driver License Program (GDL) in 2002. This program consists of two phases:

  • Phase 1: Learner License. Individuals who are under the age of 18 hold a learner license for a minimum of six months before receiving a standard Class C license. This license must be held for six months or until the age of 18, whichever comes first.
  • Phase 2: Provisional License. Once the driver has completed both behind-the-wheel and classroom education, they are eligible to take their driving test for their provisional license. They must also complete the Impact Texas Driver requirement. Those with a provisional license cannot drive more than one passenger under the age of 21 who is not a family member and also are not permitted to drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m. except under certain circumstances.

Knowing the two phases of the GDL program can help you know what you are dealing with if you have a collision with a young driver.

Risks of Teen Drivers

While many teen drivers quickly become responsible, defensive drivers, there are still some risks that come with having teen drivers on the road. Sometimes these risks lead to accidents that could have otherwise been avoided if an older driver had been behind the wheel.

Teens have not learned many of the driving skills that are second nature to experienced drivers. Teens are also prone to reckless driving. Young people tend to carry a certain air of immortality toward most things in life, and driving is no exception. Whether they are looking at their phone, excitedly conversing with passengers, or just distracted by thoughts about school, their first job, or even a favorite song on the radio, teens sometimes just aren’t as focused on the road and driving safely.

Other teen driver risks include:

  • Failure to wear a seatbelt. A recent CDC study found that only 55% of teenagers regularly wear seatbelts. 58% of teens who die in car crashes each year are not properly restrained.
  • Speeding. 30% of teen accidents are caused by speeding, especially because a teen is not as able to react to a hazard ahead due to inexperience.
  • Drinking. While teen drunk driving has greatly declined over the past couple of decades, it is still, unfortunately, an issue. Teens with an elevated blood alcohol level are up to 17 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who are sober.

What to Do If You Are in an Accident With a Teen

If you are in a collision with a teen, there are a few things to do right away. First, make sure everyone is safe. Check yourself and any passengers for physical injury, and also check on the teen(s) in the other car. Everyone’s safety should always be the first priority. Next:

  • Call the police and file a report. A teen might not make this call because they don’t know to or they fear getting in trouble with a parent if they know they are at fault.
  • Seek medical help. Even if you can walk away from the accident, it’s important to still go to the ER or to a doctor shortly after. Some injuries do not appear right away, and if you plan to file a claim, you need everything documented as soon as possible.
  • Contact an attorney. You might feel guilty about filing a claim against a young driver who is still learning, but it is important you protect yourself and do the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable.

Contacting an Injury Attorney

When you contact an attorney, they will help you understand how to file a claim. In most instances involving a driver under the age of 18, the parents of the teen will be held liable. If a teen driver has violated the terms of the GDL program, they may also be held liable.

It is important to contact a lawyer if you have been injured or if your car has been damaged. The fact that the other driver is young and inexperienced does not pardon them from compensating you for your losses. At SJ Injury Attorneys, we can navigate the legal process for you when it comes to filing a claim against a teen driver. Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your unique situation and to ensure a fair outcome for all involved.