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Wisconsin Teen Driving Accidents: Why They Happen, How They Can Be Prevented, and How Injured Victims Can Recover

New teenage drivers can be a hazard on the roadIn 2013, one Wisconsin driver age 19 or under was hurt or killed in a crash every 1.7 hours, according to the most recent information available from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians were also hurt and killed in these crashes.

Yes, Wisconsin teen drivers are not automatically at fault for car accidents. Instead—as is the case with each and every Wisconsin accident—liability needs to be established based on the unique facts of the case, and not on the age or other attributes of a driver.

That said, teen drivers lack the experience of many older drivers…and that lack of driving experience can cause a teen driver to be negligent and result in an auto accident.

A federal study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified some of the specific problems with teen drivers as a group. Specifically, the study found that:

  • 58 percent of high school seniors admitted to texting and driving in the last month.
  • 43 percent of high school juniors admitted to texting and driving in the last month.
  • 8 percent of teens say that they rarely or never wear a seat belt.
  • 8 percent of teens admit to drinking and driving.
  • 24 percent of teens admit to riding in a car with a driver who is drunk.

Texting and driving and drinking and driving may cause significant car crashes, and not wearing a seat belt can make injuries worse or fatalities more likely.

How Big Is the Problem?

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study looked at crash data from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the years 2006 to 2010. According to the study results, Wisconsin had a rate of 17.8 traffic deaths per 100,000 teens aged 16 to 19. The national average was 16.2 traffic deaths per 100,000 teens in that age group. The deadliest month for Wisconsin teens was August and the deadliest day of the week was Saturday. The fatality rate went down for drivers age 20 and above. Overall, the study ranked Wisconsin as the 24th worst state overall for the rate of teenage traffic fatalities.

Wisconsin’s Graduated License Laws Are Meant to Help Prevent Teen Accidents

In Wisconsin, a new driver may obtain a license in three stages. Specifically:

  • A person who is 15½ years old may get a learner’s permit. The learner’s permit may be used for at least six months and a driver must get supervised driving hours in while having the permit.
  • At age 16, a driver may get an intermediate license. A driver with an intermediate license may not have more than one unrelated passenger in the car at a time and may not drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
  • At age 16½, a driver may get a full Wisconsin driver’s license without restrictions.

These rules don’t apply, however, to older teens who get their licenses. About 36 percent of new drivers will get their licenses after they are no longer subject to graduated license laws.

Currently, the law does not require the additional driving experience that graduated license laws encourage for younger teen drivers. However, as a parent you can encourage that experience by having your child get his license when he is still subject to the law, by refusing to contribute money toward a vehicle or insurance unless your child abides by your rules, and by talking to your child about the importance of on-the-road training.

Additional Ways Parents Can Help Protect Teen Drivers

Car accidents are a leading cause of death for teens, but they are not inevitable. Parents can help protect their children by:

  • Modeling good driving. Be an example of good driving habits: wear your seat belt, follow traffic laws, and avoid distractions when you get behind the wheel.
  • Driving with your teen. Help your child learn to drive in different conditions, including traffic, bad weather, and darkness.
  • Setting and enforcing the rules. You can create a driving contract with your teen. The contract should include important rules such as requiring your teen to always wear a seat belt, limiting the number of passengers in the car, never speeding, always following traffic laws, never drinking and driving, and never using a cell phone while driving. Additionally, the contract should establish consequences—such as loss of driving privileges—when the rules are broken.

You can also share our FREE book with your teen. Simply download your copy of The Ultimate Guide for Automobile Accident Victims from our website today.

What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt by a Teen Driver

If a teen driver has caused your injuries or killed your loved one, then you need to protect your right to a fair and just recovery. As with accident, you will need to establish what caused your crash and who was liable for your injuries.

If another driver—such as a teen driver—caused the accident, then you may be able to recover for your past, current, and future medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, pain, and suffering. To learn more, please use the online contact form on this page. We would be happy to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with you so that you can learn more about your rights and your potential recovery.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham