Teenagers seem to be a little different these days. We say this with great regret, mainly because it is such a clichéd statement. Teenagers have always been different to an adult, which is strange considering that adults used to be teenagers. When adults compare teenagers to how they used to be when they were that age, there is usually a fair amount of selective amnesia that goes on.
“I was never that reckless,” we say to ourselves. “I was never that rude, I was never that self-absorbed, I was never that irresponsible,” etc. The truth is, we probably were that reckless, rude, self-absorbed and irresponsible, but we didn’t think that we were being that way at the time.
But standard generational amnesia aside, teenagers are different today. They are different mainly because they have the means to be even more different than usual.
They share things about themselves that make many of us shake our heads in disbelief, and they do it without much of a second thought. The things that a teenager would routinely post on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are sometimes things that adults would never consider sharing with anyone.
There are elements of everyday life that adults have had to get used to which teenagers have never known life without. Teenagers can communicate instantly from anywhere. They can find out anything instantly. The term “delayed gratification” can be one with which they are very unfamiliar.
All of this instantaneous communication and information have added a bit of an energy boost to all of the standard things that bother adults about teenagers. They are even more impatient than normal now. If you don’t believe us, lure them into a room and turn off the wireless internet signal.
In the middle of this developmental tornado that is the teenage years, we have seen fit to give them access to vehicles that weigh tons and can move at 100 miles per hour. We don’t want to change that, but what we would like to do is give you some of the reasons that the fatality rate is so high when it comes to teenagers and car accidents. Perhaps a bit of elaboration will bring back some not so pleasant memories from when you were 16.
The first major problem with teenage drivers is the maturity level. Your average 16 year old thinks he is quite mature, but reality does not bear this out. If you couple that with the sense of invincibility (“nothing is going to happen to me”) then it seems perfectly fine to drive at excessive rates of speed through suburban neighborhoods, or to run red lights, or to ignore stop signs, or to drag race. Many teen drivers are more concerned with having fun behind the wheel rather than driving responsibly.
Inexperience behind the wheel is a big factor as well. Your average 16 year old has to spend most of his time either in school or at home. Driving time is actually rare. They might not be used to driving on highways or driving in poor weather conditions, or they simply don’t have the necessary time on the road to drive with confidence.
About one third of all teen car accident fatalities happen due to speeding. In other words, they happen in accidents where the car in question was traveling at a rate of speed that was higher than the limit. Again, this is a byproduct of the immaturity level. Another aspect of that is drinking and driving, which happens in about 25% of teenage fatalities. The fact that teenagers have not reached the legal drinking age is no impediment to them finding alcohol and getting behind the wheel.
These factors have been killing teenagers for decades, and we don’t imagine that we are surprising anyone with this information. But here is the big difference between teenagers today and teenagers throughout the rest of the American automotive era; these teenagers who are so used to instant communication and multitasking think nothing of texting, watching video, checking their e-mail or even video-conferencing behind the wheel of the car.
They do these things all the time at home, at school and while walking around. Many of them see no real difference between texting while driving and texting while sitting in a living room. The number of crashes and fatalities among teenagers and drivers in their early twenties who text and drive verifies this.
As car accident lawyers in the Washington, D.C. area, we represent a lot of people who have been injured in crashes. Unfortunately, more than a few of them have been injured due to the recklessness of teenagers behind the wheel. Speeding teenagers, drunken teenagers, inexperienced teenagers, and more recently, texting teenagers have all been the cause of serious car crashes in Maryland, Virginia and the District. These car accidents have seriously changed the lives of both the victims and the teens driving the car, neither of them for the better.
If you are a parent and your 15 year old is starting driving lessons, take the extra time to stress the importance of driving carefully. And if you have been injured in a car accident in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free consultation.