Ready Or Not, Here Teens Come

In July 2018, a teen passenger was killed in a rollover crash while teaching another teen how to drive. MLive reported that neither of the teens were wearing seat belts when the driver, who was going too fast, lost control of the vehicle and it rolled. In another recent teenage car accident, The Detroit Free Press reported that a van full of 10 teenagers were driving on 1-75 and when the driver attempted to switch spots with another passenger as the van was still in motion, causing the van to roll. Two of the three passengers were ejected from the van. If these teen car crashes are anything to go by, it seems like teenagers are not the safest or most cautious drivers. In fact, The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) recently stated on Instagram that, “teen drivers were 2.5 times more likely to engage in 1 or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with 1 teenage peer, compared to when driving alone.” Also, “the likelihood of teen drivers engaging in 1 or more risky behaviors when traveling with multiple passengers increased to 3 times compared to when driving alone.”

Teenage License Eligibility

Just because a teenager and their friends are bored on a Friday night and they find their parents’ car keys on the kitchen counter, doesn’t mean they can go for a joyride through the Taco Bell drive-thru. There are rules on who can drive!

According to Michigan’s Secretary of State (SOS), “if an individual is 14 years and 9 months and has successfully completed Segment 1 of an approved driver education program they may be eligible for a Level 1 Learner’s License. Level 2’s intermediate license can be earned if a driver is at least 16 years old, had a Level 1 Learner’s License for at least 6 months, and has successfully completed Segment 2 of an approved driver education program. Drivers should also have a parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult sign the application to certify the 50 hours behind-the-wheel driving experience. To be eligible for a Level 2 Full License, applicants must be 17 years old, have Level 2 License for at least 6 months, and completed 12 consecutive months without a moving violation, a crash in which a moving violation resulted, a crash, a license suspension, or a violation of the graduated license restrictions. These requirements end for all teens once they turn 18-years-old.”

However, just because teens are eligible to drive at 14 years and 9 months doesn’t mean they can just hit the road whenever they want. Michigan’s Secretary of State office has restrictions for Level 1 and Level 2 drivers.

Michigan Graduated Drivers License Restrictions

A Level 1 licensed driver:

1. May only drive with a licensed parent/guardian or designated licensed adult age 21 or older.

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A Level 2 licensed driver:

1. Shall not operate a motor vehicle between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except when:

  • Driving to or from or in the course of employment;

  • Driving to or from an authorized activity; or

  • Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.

2. Shall not operate a motor vehicle at any time with more than one passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 21 years of age except:

  • When the additional passengers are immediate family members;

  • When driving to or from, or in the course of employment;

  • While going to or from an authorized activity; or

  • When accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.

So, the teen driver who was teaching the other teen how to drive before they crashed, exhibited behavior that is illegal because according to the SOS rules, they are probably Level 1 drivers, and therefore must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older. Also, in Michigan, it is illegal for Level 2 drivers to operate a motor vehicle with more than 1 passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 21-years-old, which means the driver with 10 passengers was also driving illegally!

Forget keeping hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel! Teens seem more likely to have their hands in the air taking a selfie behind the wheel, rather than holding the wheel. Since teen drivers take so many road risks, it’s important for parents to speak to their kids about these dangers. The Michigan Law Firm, PC blog recently discussed some driving discussion tips for parents who have driving age teens. It always important to remind teens, and everyone, that driving is a privilege, not a right.

Seeing teenagers behind the wheel can be a scary sight for other drivers on the road. Risky behaviors can lead to car accidents and severe accident injuries. Teens who get into car crashes are scared to call their parents, but those parents may be terrified of dealing with car accident insurance claims. The car crash lawyers at The Michigan Law Firm, PC make the insurance process easier for car crash victims and their families, and work hard to recover car insurance benefits even when crash victims have been denied. Contact us at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.

The Parents' Guide To Safe Teen Driving

For a parent, a teenager finally getting their driver's license can be a double-edged sword. It’s a celebration since parents no longer have to pick up and drop off their teens from their high school sports and club events and they can now make their teens run endless errands on Sunday mornings! On the downside, parents may fall into the eternal pit of worrying about their teens’ safety on the road. After all, according to the Center For Disease and Control (CDC), more than 2,400 teens died due to car crashes, the main cause of these car accidents being driver inexperience, in 2016!

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Most teens beg for a car for their Sweet Sixteen, but Michigan parents worry more than other parents around the country because in Michigan, “if an individual is 14 years and 9 months and has successfully completed Segment 1 of an approved driver education program they may be eligible for a Level 1 Learner’s License.” Before parents start panicking that their teen is driving just after graduating from Middle School, parents should make sure that their teen is qualified and ready to drive on their own.

The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) offers parents a few tips on how to coach a teen in driving.

How To Coach Teen Drivers

  • Model Safe Driving- Teens learn what they observe. Be a good role model and follow the rules of the road.

  • Practice a lot- Practice as much as possible. You and your teen should be the only people in the vehicle.

  • Plan your routes ahead of time - While your teen is driving, be able to communicate your intentions clearly before your teen executes any of your requests. For example, "turn right" is a bad request. "Turn right at the next corner" is a better request.

  • Start simple- Learning to drive can be overwhelming - for your teen and for you. Begin with the basics, such as turning, parking and backing up. When you both feel comfortable, consider progressing to more advanced skills such as merging, changing lanes and parallel parking.

  • Start sunny- Begin practicing during the day, in good weather. As your teen improves, gradually start driving during different driving conditions, including a variety of times of day, weather and types of roads.

  • Don't rush into rush hour- Start with safe, low-risk driving conditions, such as empty parking lots and quiet rural roads. Gradually make progress to neighborhood streets with little traffic, then busier roads and highways.

  • Talk with your teen- Keep the lines of communication open so your teen feels comfortable talking with you. This builds trust and respect.

  • Take deep breaths- Remember, new drivers need a lot of practice. Making mistakes is part of learning. Remain calm and focused. Teens will show the greatest improvement in the first 1,000 miles to 5,000 miles of driving.

Of course, a few coaching tips won’t cover the wide range of environments and challenges a driver may face while on the road. So, it is very important for parents to monitor their teens’ driving and educate them on how distractions can be dangerous when driving.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) mention 3 main types of distracted driving which may affect a teen driver:

  1. Visual: taking your eyes off the road.

  2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.

  3. Cognitive: taking your mind off what you are doing.

Taking a Snapchat video, passing the aux cord, typing in a location on Google maps, texting a friend, or even drinking water or eating while driving, are all actions categorized as distracted driving. According to The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), 391,000 drivers were injured by distracted driving in 2016. What is even more terrifying is that, according to the National Safety Council, “cell phone use is now estimated to be involved in 26% of all motor vehicle crashes.”

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Nobody, especially not a teen driver, wants to deal with traffic fines for distracted driving because they had to check the notification that popped on their phone. Fines may raise car insurance rates and can even eventually lead to license suspension. And cell phone usage while driving isn’t even legal for some teens, because according to Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), Michigan law prohibits drivers who are Level 1 and Level 2 license holders under the Graduated Driver Licensing program from using a cell phone while driving. “Violations are a civil infraction and fees may be up to $240.” And no teen wants to suffer through the consequence of getting their keys taken away by their parents just before prom!

So, to avoid fines, car accidents, and to give parents peace of mind, parents should ensure that their teens are properly taught how to drive before they let them on the road by themselves. Parents can teach their teens themselves or enroll their teens into driving courses. Parents and their teens should also discuss the dangers of distracted driving as well as the seriousness of car crashes to ensure that teens understand what can go wrong if they neglect to drive with caution and full attention on the road.

While parents may face the same car accident risks and obstacles each time they get behind the wheel, they have the experience to handle road dangers that many teen drivers do not. A teen driving car crash can cause serious damage to vehicles, to the teen drivers, and to others on the road. However, The Michigan Law Firm, PC understands that teen drivers aren’t always at fault in their first car accident. Our accident attorneys handle all types of motor vehicle accident cases. Call us at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.