Getting a driver’s license for the first time can bring new opportunities and responsibilities for teens. But for those who share the road, it can also create risks. Those aged 16-19 years old are at a higher risk for being involved in a motor vehicle accident than any other age group, and car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. These dangers aren’t only specific to teens, however. These accidents often involve other, older drivers and their passengers, too. To address these concerns, many states, including Alabama, have implemented specific rules for teen drivers.
Alabama’s Graduated License Law for Teen Drivers
Teen drivers in Alabama must go through the process of a graduated license before they are able to be fully independent behind the wheel. This involves licensing in three stages:
- Learner’s Permit. Teens age 15 or older must pass a written exam to obtain a learner’s permit, which allows them to drive when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a licensed driver age 21 or older who is riding in the front seat.
- Restricted License. With the approval of a parent or guardian, a teen who is 16 or older must pass a road skills exam to obtain a restricted license. With this license, a teen can drive without adult supervision. Teens may not drive between the hours of midnight and 6 am (with some specific exceptions), may not drive more than one passenger who is not a family member, and may not use any handheld communication devices while driving.
- Unrestricted License. A driver age 17 or older, who has held a restricted license for at least six months can apply for an unrestricted license.
Teen drivers who commit violations when holding a learner’s permit or restricted license are subject to an extension of the graduated license period or suspension of the license.
The Dangers Associated With Teenaged Drivers
While many teens are ready to get behind the wheel and behave responsibly, there are certain risks that are commonly associated with teenage drivers. These include:
- Distraction. Distracted driving has become a problem for all drivers but especially teenagers. Distraction was a key factor in more than half of all crashes involving drivers aged 16-19 years. Teens often lack the focus and maturity to resist the temptations of cell phones, passenger conversation, and radios.
- Speeding. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls speeding a “critical safety issue for teen drivers.” According to the NHTSA, speeding was a factor in about one-third of all fatal teen crashes. The agency also reports there is evidence that suggests speeding behavior gets worse over time, possibly as the teen drivers gain confidence behind the wheel.
- Alcohol use. Alcohol use by a teen or any driver increases the risk of a crash. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey reported that 16.5 percent of teens admitted to riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
- Failure to respond to road conditions. In general, many teens lack the experience and focus to effectively scan the road and respond to changing road conditions. When bad weather, traffic congestion, construction, or some other condition arises, teens often fail to properly address the situation.
Liability When a Teen Driver Causes a Crash in Alabama
A car crash caused by a teen is typically handled the same as if an adult is behind the wheel. Liability for the crash is proven just as in any other accident, through:
- Police report
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Photos of the scene
- Physical evidence on the vehicle and roadway
Typically, when a teen is held accountable, he’s issued a citation or loses his license status. In some severe situations, the parents of the teen could be liable. If parents are aware that their teen is an unfit or reckless driver but allow him to continue to drive, they might be at least partly responsible.
Obtaining Damages After an Accident With a Teen Driver
All Alabama drivers, including teens, are required to carry auto insurance to provide compensation when accidents occur. This compensation can cover damages, including:
- Vehicle repair or replacement
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Future medical bills
- Future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
If a teen driver has caused your accident and injuries, you may be eligible to file a claim. Our Mobile car accident attorneys can help you understand your rights and obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible. Call our office today, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about who we are and how we may be able to help.