The leading cause of death for teenagers, ages 16 to 19, in North Carolina is motor vehicle crashes. This unpleasant statistic applies across the U.S. as well. In 2008, 9 teenagers died every day from injuries in car wrecks. More teens are killed in car crashes than in any other way. Thus far, almost all states have taken some action to try and reduce teen crashes. But the restrictions vary greatly from state to state.

In North Carolina, the state legislature implemented a graduated driver’s licensing (GDL) law that restricts teenagers’ right to drive. The law places more restrictions on younger drivers and eases those restrictions as the driver increases in age.

A recent study analyzing the hospitalization rates for teen drivers in North Carolina shows that the GDL system is working. Since the GDL program went into effect, the hospitalization rate for teenagers between 16 and 19 years of age has decreased. The study concluded that the decrease was due to reduced exposure to dangerous situations (e.g. several teenagers in a single vehicle) than to improved driving skills.

There are many things that parents can do to reduce the deadly serious risks associated with their teenager’s driving a motor vehicle. Knowing the factors that put teens at higher risk of death should be at the top of the list. Knowing the restrictions of the GDL law should be a close second because the law is designed to reduce the situations that have been identified as being the most risky for teenage drivers.

In Washington, Congress is considering a bill that would increase the unrestricted driving age to 18. Congress would require states to increase their minimum driving age within 3 years of the bill’s effective date or risk losing federal highway funding. The bill’s purpose is to beef up GDL laws and streamline them into a national standard. In most countries around the world, the average minimum driving age is 18. The proposed bill would likely reduce the number of teen deaths. Wouldn’t saving just one life be worth it? If it were your child’s life that might be saved, would you think the proposed law was a good thing for our country?

At Davis Law Group, we are often asked to evaluate liability associated with the often tragic results of irresponsible teenage driving. We see the faces of the parents left behind. We hear the shattered dreams and once hopeful futures. If you have a teen driver, learn the risks of teen driving and learn how to minimize them for your child. Be diligent and alert and teach your child to do the same.