BACK TO SCHOOL MEANS YOUNG DRIVERS – AND THEIR PASSENGERS – AT RISK
As our children go back to school this year there will be new drivers driving to school for the first time, and many of their friends will celebrate being freed from taking the school bus to school. Yet most cars pulling into high school parking lots this fall will be driven in violation of the Graduated Drivers License restrictions that New Jersey imposes on all drivers with a probationary license. In that first year after your teenage son or daughter obtains their driver’s license, and are engaged in their first year of unsupervised driving, they carry a probationary license. A probationary license stipulates that they may not drive between the hours of 11:01 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., may transport only one passenger, and may use no cell phone – handheld or hands-free – or any other portable, wireless device while driving. Any vehicle they are driving must visibly bear the GDL decals. If your son or daughter is picking up their friends to drive them to or from school or home after a sports practice or other extra-curricular activity, they are limited to ONE passenger. Most parents are given little opportunity to see whose car their teen jumps into as they run out the door in the morning, much less count the number of passengers. But we should. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2,700 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 – over seven per day.** New Jersey’s DRL restrictions are a response to the tragedy of teenage motor vehicle accident-related deaths and catastrophic injuries. Compared to males driving alone, males with peer passengers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver, and twice as likely to drive aggressively. One in five females, and one in four males driving with peers, were distracted by something inside the vehicle just before crashing. Read more about peer passenger distraction HERE – look for the ‘Focus on Distraction From Peer Passengers‘ graph on the 4th page Parents can help reduce such risks by enforcing GDL provisions that limit the number of friends their teenagers may drive. Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division decided that anyone who sends a text to a driver knowing that the recipient is driving – and will read the message while driving – shares in the responsibility if the distracted driver has an accident. In Kubert v. Best decided on August 27, 2013, a new cause of action was created for remote texters who contribute to the distraction of a driver, just as any passenger who distracts a driver. The facts did not permit a finding for the young woman, who was texting her boyfriend, in whether she knew if he was driving when he read her text – and proceeded to cross the yellow line, striking an oncoming motorcyclist and his passenger; but put all of us on notice of the risks of texting someone we know is driving regarding when they’ll be home, or to pick up a sibling, to stop at the grocery store or pharmacy, etc. A helpful resource for parents of teen drivers can be found on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle commission website at: http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/pdf/Licenses/GDL_Safe_Driving.pdf
Contact CraigAnninBaxter Law
At CraigAnninBaxter Law, we have a comprehensive understanding of the laws governing personal injury, and can help you build a case appropriately. We are committed to seeking out full compensation for your losses. To discuss your concerns and learn your options, contact us online or call our office at 856-795-2220. **Fatal wrecks underscore risks for young drivers. Tom Watkins, CNN March 13, 2013.