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If the driver next to you is a teen, your life may be at risk

A lot of West Virginia teens can't wait to get their driver's licenses and get onto the road. Their parents probably support them, but also express concern for their safety.

That concern should also extend to those sharing the roads with them. Some of the risk associated with teen drivers isn't their fault. They are new to it and a lack of experience makes them more dangerous. The rest of the risk comes from a false sense of security and too much faith in their abilities that makes them do things behind the wheel that they shouldn't.

Cell phones aren't the only danger

Even when teenagers listen to their parents and put their cell phones away, that doesn't eliminate all of the danger. When a teen reaches for something in the vehicle, his or her risk of crashing rises seven times when compared to teens who don't do the same. The fact is that, when it comes to the death or disability of individuals between the ages of 15 and 20, motor vehicle accidents top the list. A recent study of 82 new teenage drivers yielded the following results:

  • In 51 percent of crashes, teens were attempting to do more than one thing. About 56 percent of the time, teens were doing the same thing but didn't crash.
  • In 10 percent of crashes, teens were manually handling their cell phones. About 5 percent of the time, teens were doing the same without a crash.
  • Regardless of accidents, teens interacted with their passengers about 21 percent of the time.
  • In 11 percent of crashes, teens were reaching for something. About 3 percent of the time, teens were doing the same thing but did not crash.

Experienced drivers may be better able to compensate for these behaviors. They can better discern when the risk is lower -- even though any driver increases the risk of an accident when engaging in these behaviors. The risk is just higher when the driver lacks the experience that comes with being a new teen driver.

What does this mean for you?

You can't choose who shares the road with you. The driver next to you could be an inexperienced teenager making a phone call or laughing with friends and not paying attention to the road. If you suffer injuries as a result, you retain the right to pursue compensation for your financial losses and other damages.

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