Teen drivers in West Virginia often engage in risky driving behaviors

USA Today reports that teen drivers often start out by driving cautiously and then, as they become more comfortable behind the wheel, they begin to engage in risky driving behaviors. The article cautions that parents of teen drivers need to continue monitoring their children's behind-the-wheel driving habits as they gain experience. This is especially true in West Virginia. The analysts for Erie Insurance find that West Virginia ranks among the top five states nationally with regard to having the highest rates of death among teens that get behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored a study of West Virginia highway accident data. That study reveals that young people in West Virginia who are involved in auto accidents are often guilty of: (1) driving too fast; (2) failing to keep in the proper lane of traffic; or (3) driving in an erratic and reckless manner. Almost 50 percent of the crashes involving young West Virginia drivers occur on weekend days. The majority of crashes occurred between 3:00 p.m. and midnight.

According to the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, newly licensed drivers have higher auto accident crash rates than older drivers. Among the key risk factors are:

  • Inexperience in operating a motor vehicle.
  • Distraction while driving, including using cell phones and texting.
  • Driving at excessive speeds.
  • Following too close.
  • Drinking and driving.
  • Driving at night.
  • Interacting with young passengers.

Often, several of these risk factors are present while a teen is driving. For example, a teen may be speeding, following other vehicles too closely and using a cellphone all at the same time. Teenage drivers who engage in risky behaviors put themselves, their passengers, and other highway users at substantial risk for personal injuries and possibly fatalities.

As a means to curtail teen-driving accidents, most states-including West Virginia-have adopted graduated driver's license systems whereby teens receive driving privileges in steps as they gain experience. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that state graduated driver licensing laws have undoubtedly helped reduce teen crash rates significantly in recent years.

Safety tips

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, parents should take the following steps when their teens begin to drive independently:

  • Young drivers should not drive without restrictions until they have sufficient experience.
  • Teens should not drive alone at night or in bad weather conditions.
  • Prohibit teens from driving if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Work out when and where the teen is allowed to drive the car.
  • Mandate that everyone in the car must wear seat belts at all times.
  • Make a determination whether the teen has enough experience to drive passengers.
  • Determine what behavior results in the teen losing driving privileges.
  • Teens should be prohibited from texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Supervised driving is the key to helping your teenager develop the necessary habits and skills for safe driving.

Injury compensation

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a young driver who engages in reckless behavior such as texting or speeding, you are entitled under West Virginia law to seek financial compensation. You should contact an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents as soon as possible. The attorney can investigate the accident if necessary and advise you on how to go about seeking compensation.