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Teen Accidents: Common Mistakes Made by New Drivers

If you have a teen driver in the family, you know how expensive insuring them can be. This is because statistically, the risk of crashing is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), per mile driven, teens ages 16 to 19 are almost 3 times more likely than drivers ages 20 and older to be involved in a fatal crash. The following is a list of the most common reasons teens are involved in so many collisions.

Driver Distraction

Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of accidents in the United States, and more than half of all teen crashes involve some kind of driver distraction. Whether it’s texting and driving or eating in the car, a teen driver is more likely to take his or her eyes off the road and fail to pay attention to his or her surroundings. For example, if sending a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, that message would prevent you from using those seconds to observe and avoid hitting a stopped car in front of you.

Other Teens

Another aspect of driver distraction involves other passengers. While teens enjoy going places with their friends, having more people in the car poses more of a danger. Passengers not only distract the driver but can cause the driver to maneuver the car more aggressively than they would on their own. Even a single other teen passenger can increase the risk of a car accident.

Poor Visual Scanning

Drivers unused tot the activity of scanning the road for potential dangers will make the mistake of focusing on hazards coming from a specific or limited area. For example, instead of scanning all around the car on a regular basis, a new driver might only focus his or her attention on the front windshield. While this is effective for avoiding head-on dangers, it doesn’t allow the driver to see dangers posed by other drivers in nearby lanes or behind them.


Inexperienced drivers sometimes incorrectly judge the speed they are going and may not know how long it can take the vehicle to stop. While their reflexes are sharp, their interpretation of situations won’t be as correct as an older, more experienced driver. This kind of information comes with practice and experience, so it’s vital for them to slow down and obey the posted traffic speed signs.

Inexperience with Other Drivers

One of the benefits of having driven for a while is knowing when other people are in the wrong. For newer drivers, this can be a huge problem. Going over the speed limit is one example of this. If a teen driver is going at the posted speed, but a driver tailgating the teen wants him or her to go faster, the teen driver may speed up because they believe they are going too slow. In reality, the person tailgating should be going the speed limit instead or should be changing lanes instead of harassing the teen driver. An experienced driver would continue going the speed limit until the impatient person backed off or changed lanes, but a teen driver might panic and make a mistake as a result. There are many other situations involving inexperience that could contribute to making a driving error, such as being unable to judge the speed of oncoming cars or not understanding how large a blind spot commercial trucks have.

Taking Unnecessary Risks

Some teens will make poor choices while they drive, such as speeding through a yellow light, not using their turn signals, or failing to check their blind spots. While some of these teens do so out of neglect or because they don’t believe the procedures are relevant, others are just the result of being a new driver. Operating a motor vehicle involves knowing, understanding, and implementing dozens of rules, gestures, precautions, and so on, which takes time and practice to learn. A new driver may forget to use the turn signal or might forget to turn the signal off, for example. Alternatively, a teen may forget to check the rearview mirror and the blind spot before changing lanes.

Driving While Tired

Not many people understand teens are on an entirely different sleep cycle than adults. Not only do they need more sleep, but their circadian rhythm is delayed. The natural shift that happens once a child turns into a teen is called “sleep phase delay” by scientists. This means the hormones that control sleep, which would usually turn off early for an adult, turn off another 2 hours later for teens. While most adults feel sleepy around 8 or 9 p.m., a teen’s body won’t make them feel sleepy until around 10 or 11 p.m. This means they naturally should wake up at a later time; however, most schools begin classes around 8 a.m. If a teen is driving himself or herself to school in the morning, their reaction time is delayed, their awareness is decreased, and they are more likely to experience accidents.


On the road, unexpected events may cause you to make sudden changes to your driving in response. For example, if someone swerves into your lane ahead of you, you either need to apply the brakes quickly or get into the next lane to avoid a collision. A new driver might overcompensate in these situations, causing them to lose control of the car. This danger might be worsened if they are going over the posted speed limit.

Driving the Wrong Car

Some teens are lucky enough to have parents who can afford to buy them whatever car they like; however, sometimes parents and teens don’t consider the consequences of buying something like a sports car. High-performance vehicles are dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced driver. It’s too easy to lose control of these vehicles, particularly if they have high horsepower and can go at high speeds in shorter amounts of time.

If you were involved in an accident with a negligent driver, you might be eligible to seek compensation for any injury or damage caused to you, your passengers, or your vehicle. Likewise, if your injury resulted in extensive medical bills and required you to take time off of work, you might be able to recover compensation for your lost wages and rehabilitation costs. Habbas & Associates is a firm dedicated to helping the victims of personal injury get their lives back in order. Over the course of our history, we have recovered more than $300 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients. We have developed a reputation for being compassionate and skilled representatives who create the most effective strategies for each client’s unique case. Let our experienced San Jose car accident attorneys see what they can do for you.

Contact us at (888) 387-4053 or fill out our online form to schedule your free case consultation today.

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